Haniffa Bin Osman 55, a citizen of the Republic of Singapore, pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and money laundering.
According to the plea agreement, from April to Sept. 29, 2006, Osman conspired with Haji Subandi and Erick Wotulo to provide state-of-the-art firearms, machine guns and ammunition, surface-to-air missiles, night vision goggles and other military weapons to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) operating within Sri Lanka, to be used to fight against Sri Lankan government forces.
The conspirators contacted an undercover business in Maryland about the sale of military weapons, requesting price quotes and negotiating the purchases. Subandi sent an itemized list of 53 military weapons, including sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers, that he wanted to acquire for the Tamil Tigers. Subandi advised the undercover business that Osman would inspect the weapons for the Tamil Tigers. Wotulo also advised that the chief of the Tamil Tigers requested that he and Osman travel to Baltimore to meet with the undercover agents.
“Keeping sophisticated U.S. weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists has never been more important,” said James A. Dinkins, Special Agent in Charge for Baltimore for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“This three-year undercover investigation conducted by ICE, in collaboration with our federal and local law enforcement partners, highlights the reach and impact of international arms trafficking. As this case demonstrates, ICE has no tolerance for international arms brokers looking to equip terrorist organizations with advanced American weaponry.”
“Osman is the third defendant to plead guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, and three defendants have pleaded guilty to attempting to illegally export arms,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein. “We will use all available legal tools to prevent terrorism, including undercover operations targeting people who attempt to obtain military weapons in violation of American law.”
In July 2006, Osman met with undercover agents in Baltimore and stated that the weapons were for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. Osman said that he was not a Tamil Tigers member but was helping them obtain weapons. The agents showed Osman a variety of weapons, ammunition and night vision devices.
While in Baltimore, Osman discussed the illegality of the transfer of the arms to the Tamil Tigers and provided navigational coordinates for a delivery in the Indian Ocean. Osman stated that if the first transfer of the weapons were successful, the second order could be worth as much as $15 million.
Osman also inquired about pricing for unmanned aerial vehicles, and test-fired several weapons, including machine guns and sniper rifles. Osman discussed the commission he would receive for the arms sale. He also raised the possibility that members of the Sea Tigers, the Marine Unit of the Tamil Tigers, would also escort the weapons to their final destination.
On Aug. 1, 2006, Osman told the undercover agents that the Tamil Tigers wired a deposit of $250,000 as a down payment for the purchase of the weapons. Indeed, the next day $250,000 was wired from Malaysia to an undercover bank account in Maryland. Later that month Osman requested that the undercover business provide photographs and technical specifications for surface to air missiles.
Osman arrived in Guam on September 26, 2006, and inspected various machine guns, sniper rifles and ammunition. He also inspected two surface-to-air missiles and agreed to communicate with others within the Tamil Tigers about the availability and pricing of the missiles. After the inspection was completed, Osman agreed to arrange for the transfer of additional money into an undercover bank account in Maryland as further payment for the arms and munitions.
On September 28 an additional $452,000 was wired from Malaysia to the undercover account in Maryland as a further down payment on the $900,000 worth of weapons ordered by the Tamil Tigers.
On Sept. 29, 2006, Wotulo arrived in Guam and met with Osman and undercover agents to discuss the ship-board loading of the arms and munitions. They also discussed current and future sales of weapons to the Tamil Tigers with undercover agents. They were then arrested.
Osman faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and 20 years in prison for money laundering. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled Osman’s sentencing for June 25, 2007, at 9:15 a.m.
Subandi, 70, a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia, pleaded guilty on March 8, 2007, and faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; 20 years in prison for each of two counts of money laundering; and 10 years in prison for attempted exportation of arms and munitions. Judge Blake has scheduled Subandi’s sentencing for June 15, 2007 at 10:30 a.m.
Wotulo, 60, a citizen of the Republic of Indonesia, and a retired Indonesian Marine Corps General, pleaded guilty on February 23, 2007, to conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and money laundering. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for conspiracy to provide material support and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for money laundering. Judge Blake has scheduled Wotulo’s sentencing for May 25, 2007 at 10:00 a.m.
Reinhard Rusli, 34, and Helmi Soedirdja, 33, both citizens of Indonesia, pleaded guilty to attempting to illegally export arms and money laundering on January 30, 2007. They face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine for money laundering and 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine for attempted exportation of arms. Judge Blake has scheduled their sentencing for April 27, 2007, at 11:00 a.m.
Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, 36, a citizen of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is scheduled to go to trial on May 14, 2007, on charges of conspiracy to export arms; conspiracy to provide support to a foreign terrorist organization; money laundering; attempted export of weapons; and possession of firearms in relation to a crime of violence.
“The disruption of the supply chain of this organization should reassure the public that the U.S. Government is committed to dismantling terrorist groups worldwide,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) William D. Chase, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work to prevent any person from using the United States to raise funds or procure arms to commit acts of terrorism.”
“Combating terrorism is a priority of the DCIS and of the Department of Defense,”said Dan Willkens, Director, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS). “Today’s plea demonstrates DCIS’ commitment to ensuring that weapons and critical technologies do not fall into the hands of terrorists or those who would do us harm. DCIS will continue to work in partnership with all law enforcement agencies to combat this threat.”
Founded in 1976, the Tamil Tigers have advocated the violent overthrow of the Sri Lankan government, employing acts of violence, including suicide bombings, against both civilian and military targets. Approximately 200 such attacks have been attributed to the Tamil Tigers to date.
The Tamil Tigers rely heavily upon supporters throughout the world to raise and launder money, acquire intelligence and purchase military use technology. The U.S. Department of State designated the Tamil Tigers as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. As such, the Tamil Tigers cannot legally raise money or procure operational equipment in the United States.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org).