8:24 AM

LTTE's Illegal Phone Card Racket Busted in Palermo Italy

LTTE illegal phone card racket was busted in the southern Palermo area in on April 15th, amidst the Sinhala and Tamil New Year festivities. Italian authorities swooped on and took into possession five telephone cards operated by the LTTE. The cards were impounded pending further investigations. Money laundering which is a very serious crime in Italy was linked to the Cards with the LTTE operating them. The LTTE was so sure of the operations they had picture of a Tiger on the card. These cards with other cards with dubious Tiger connections were banned by the Italian authorities.

Their names are: BOSS, SMS, EUREKA and EUROPA. Sri Lankan embassy has been actively helping the authoitries to combat the LTTE activities. Ambassador Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, earlier had helped in the stopping the transmission of LTTE channel in Milan.
It has been noted that unscrupulous LTTE agents in Sri Lanka obtained call-terminating facilities from Sri Lanka Telecom. After the call-terminating license was granted, it was bought by the LTTE, which operated the telephone cards throughout Europe. It is learnt that the Sri Lanka Embassy in Rome has been keeping all the relevant authorities informed of such activities.

It is estimated that there are more than 25,000 Tamils in Italy mainly concentrated in Palermo. The Cards are sold at 5 Euros per card and a person is expected to use at an average of about three cards for a month that is about an average of sale proceeds of Euro 375,000 per month.
As most these call terminating services do not have little or no expense we safely presume that about EURO 300,000 is sent to Tigers monthly for the purchase of arms. (1.00 EUR167.983 LKR)

The Minister of Interior and the Anti Terrorist Unit in Italy, together with the Carabinieri and the Questura, are definitely squeezing and strangling the LTTE. The LTTE is gasping for breadth.. These agencies have been inundated with complaints about the activities of the LTTE agents especially in cities like Palermo by the Tamil daispora who had appealed to the Sri Lankan Embassy to protect them from forced extortion of money. The Embassy has with vigor accelerated the initiative to stop these innocent Tamils from contributing money to the LTTE.

Palermo is in the southern part of Italy and has a population of about 8,000 Sri Lankans, the majority of which are Tamils. The Tamils who come from the north-east settled in the coasts of Sicily, most of those who have come illegally are now legal residents. Recently, during the Sri Lankan and Tamil New Year, The Tamil Association in Palermo conducted a festival which was organized by the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization, on information received by the authorities. The money collected in this exhibition was discovered by the police, which have taken the names of those who organized the festival.

There is also racket transporting money to Sri Lanka through the ‘Hawala Scheme’, where the money collected is transmitted to Singapore for the LTTE to buy arms, and the money distributed to the recipients from taxes collected by the LTTE.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Italy Hemantha Warnakulasuriya when contacted told Asian Tribune that after his arrival, the embassy has taken steps to urge the Sri Lankans in Italy to make use of the banks to remit their moneys to Sri Lanka. He said now remittance from Italy touches safely Rs 1 billion.