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Published On:Friday, June 6, 2008
Posted by azad

The iron hand of the Tamil Tigers

To finance their troops, the Tigers are mainly relying on a Diaspora dispersed among the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and France, which became one of their most important back up. Indeed, at the beginning of the revolt and above all after the anti-Tamil riots of 1983, many inhabitants of the North and of Colombo fled from the country. What was first a problem for the Tigers, who feared they could not recruit any combatants anymore, turned to their own advantage when they started imposing their revolutionary tax on these exiles. To do so, the movement established a very structured system.
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by Jérôme Pierrat

(June 06, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Chinese do not have the exclusivity of ethnic gangs phenomenon. Another Asian community, Tamils from Sri Lanka, also has its own gangs. And there again, their appearance during the second half of the 1990’s would be mainly linked with the development of illegal immigration networks to France1.

But when the Chinese teams only have a few members, the Tamil gangs include tens of them, or even many more. They would be eight of them sharing the Île-de-France market where up to 30.000 to 50.000 Tamils would be gathered, i.e. the major part of the community. The biggest of these gangs, the Mukkapola (or Mukkala or Mukkapulah) would include – according to police intelligence services – about 400 members, and a wing of young people called the Bad Boys, for which there is no exact figure. This gang would also have structural links with the Viluthu, aka New Boys, with 50 henchmen. Then come the Minnale and its 40 gangsters, the Vennila and its 30 members, the Shankar and the Tsunami, for which the number of members is unknown, and finally the Snakes with 20 people.

If we believe policemen, the Tamil gangs are said to be involved in racketeering, burglaries and other chopping up of illegal immigrants or shopkeepers, as well as drug trafficking and possessing stolen goods. But the biggest worry for the intelligence services is the link some of them have with the French wing of the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the Sri Lankan separatist guerrilla. The “Tigers” indeed had the monopoly of “mafia-like practices” within the community until the gangs appeared, with racketeering at the top of the list.

Established in 1976 in Sri Lanka in the view of creating a Tamil independent State in the North-East third of the island, the movement is considered as the best organized guerrilla in the world, with about 15.000 fighters, among which the Black Tigers commandos in charge of the suicide attacks (about 168 operations since 1987), a navy wing (the Sea Tigers) and an air wing that appeared on 26th March 2006 when two civil planes bombed an air base of the Sri Lankan Army after they took off from a strip hidden in the jungle.

To finance their troops, the Tigers are mainly relying on a Diaspora dispersed among the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and France, which became one of their most important back up. Indeed, at the beginning of the revolt and above all after the anti-Tamil riots of 1983, many inhabitants of the North and of Colombo fled from the country. What was first a problem for the Tigers, who feared they could not recruit any combatants anymore, turned to their own advantage when they started imposing their revolutionary tax on these exiles. To do so, the movement established a very structured system.

Their international secretariat based in Kilinochchi, their headquarters in the North of the country, appoints representatives of the “party” in every country, operating through shield organizations: the committees of Tamil coordination and the local branches of the ORT, a humanitarian association established in 1985. They are systematically bleeding the local community, controlling among others the cultural and sports activities and even the loans to set up a business. Not to mention the collection of the “tax” by collectors who are paid with a percentage. When the “tax payer” pays off the required amount, an identity card of the Tamil Eelam is delivered to him, which he can use in his future relations with the movement, especially during trips back home for those who are not illegal immigrants.

Once home, before they enter the controlled zone, these “holidaymakers” indeed have to go to Nandavanan Centres (literally “flower gardens”) established by the Tigers that gather information on expatriates. The “frontier guards” check thanks to the code number that the monthly or annual “taxes” have been paid in the country of residence. Otherwise, the bad payer is invited to sign an acknowledgement of debt mentioning his last address. The information is then passed on to the coordination committee of the concerned country, which will take great care in cashing the due amounts. If the extorted person persists on not paying, the members of his family who stayed in the country will suffer the consequences…

On 1st April 2007, France saw the first “anti-racket” operation led in Europe against the Tigers who are listed since May 2006 – with the breach of the truce introduced in 2002 – among the terrorist organizations of the European Union. The policemen arrested fifteen members of the Tigers in Paris and in Île-de-France, including the representative of the organisation in France, a man named Parithi, 44 years old, his second in command Petit Jeya aged 35, the financial manager, Metha the one in charge of the propaganda aged 45, as well as the ones handling the collect of taxes in each department of the Île-de-France supervising the ground-collectors. Except for the supervisor of the Hauts-de-Seine, Mugananthan, 35, arrested the day after as he was coming back from Germany. But above all, as they were carrying out their searches, they laid their hands on the whole secret accountancy of the movement in France.

In the headquarters of the Tamil Coordination Committee France, located rue des Pyrénées, Paris 20th, they found 67.400 euros (out of the 81.700 euros seized during the operation) in the office of the financial manager and even more interesting, hundreds of receipts for “donations” to be produced when entering the Tamil zone, hundreds of counterfoils of books bearing the LTTE initials, as well as hundreds of promises of “donations” with amounts varying from 100 to 6.000 euros. Other receipts of donations were found in a shop of the rue Louis-Blanc in Paris 10th, the heart of the “Little Jaffna” (the headquarters of the community in the neighbourhood of La Chapelle, from the name of Jaffna, the Tamil “capital city”, as well as tens of handwritten and typed lists including the names of the “donors” and the amount paid and many cheques without any specified order. Finally, at the head office of the humanitarian front of the movement, the ORT, located rue du Département in Paris 18th, the investigators found jewels donated by families who were unable to pay the revolutionary tax, according to the confessions of an official during his custody.

And the icing on the cake, the man in charge of money collection in the 77 confirmed that the two leaders of the movement in France recently required 2.000 euros from each family of the community. While according to the intelligence services, the usual amount was rather of 500 annually and of 5.000 euros for shopkeepers. According to policemen, 6 million euros would have been collected in 20062.

While the fifteen persons were indicted – and fourteen of them handed over to the law – on the grounds of criminal conspiracy in relation with a terrorist undertaking and extortions in relation with a terrorist undertaking, five collection men were arrested in September 2007.

If the money collected by the ORT was transiting through the account of the association in the Barclay’s bank in Paris, the cash was undoubtedly going straight to Switzerland and its banks, as it may be guessed from the seizure made on smugglers at borders. In February 2004, the customs officers of Ottmarsheim in the Haut-Rhin department arrested two men aged 44 and 35 together with a woman and two children carrying 200.000 euros in cash in their car. One of them acknowledged he already conveyed 5.4 million euros to a bank in Zurich during six trips he made in 2003.

Gangs engaged in “politics”

Racketeering among the community in France appeared in the beginning of the 1980’s, and until the end of the 1990’s, it did not encounter any resistance from the victims. The community, very discreet, was all the more docile since it is among the worst integrated in France with many members who do not speak French. Since a few years however, some of them are rebelling. To counter this rebellion, at the turn of the years 2000, under the leadership of Elango - their chief at the time - the Tigers elaborated a new strategy. In order to strengthen the links with the community, they discreetly used the gangs, killing two birds with one stone. Indeed, the appearance of these gangs had strongly impede the organisation that was seeing them as invaders of its sovereignty and its monopoly over “mafia” activities in the community: their had the situation back into hand when they put the Vennila and Minnale groups in charge of actions in which they did not want to appear, such as breaking into houses belonging to members of the community, the loot financing the cause afterwards. Then they doubly took advantage of the situation by warning the community of the harmful actions of the gangs but taking great care in not mentioning the names of those responsible and by telling people the neutralization of the gangs could only be achieved through a total collaboration with them.

This manoeuvre also allowed setting the gangs one against another, especially the Mukkapola against the Vennila the Minnale, and some of their members were eliminated or arrested after many confrontations. The chaos reinforced, in passing, the alarmist lectures of the Tigers…

But this strategy started collapsing in November 2003, when the directorship changed and Elango was replaced by Parathi. The latter had a struggle to control fights between the gangs, especially because he was said to be personally “linked” with the Mukkapola, a few members of his family being part of the gang. In a nutshell, conflicts among Tamil gangsters increased a lot, which worried the community.

The beginning of the decline of the climate dates back to 7th February 2002. That day, members of the Mukkapola killed an opponent of the Minnale outright. At 10.30 pm, a Peugeot 205 comes out from nowhere on the Avenue Paul-Vaillant-Couturier in Bobigny, a deserted road lined with administrative buildings. The 23-year old Sri Lankan driving is being chased by about ten of his compatriots in three different cars. Just before he can reach the Court of Bobigny, his car is stopped by the cars of his pursuers. They get out of their cars, rush at him and slash him with knives and pieces of broken glass, before one of them finishes him up with slashes of sabre. A witness backs up the investigators suspicions, and they arrest three men aged 22, 20 and 27 in Stains and discover one of the sabre at the house of one of them. In the following weeks, there are more and more mugging and holding in the department, until the 18th March, when several members of the Minnale gang try to kill an opponent of the Mukkapola in Le Bourget. Four days later, seventeen people are arrested in two waves, eight in Paris and nine in the 93. This does not discourage the louts who keep on their brawls and abductions in the following months. Above all, as we said before, after the appointment of the new leaders of the Tigers in November 2003.

On 19th February 2004, at 10.00 pm, a member of the Mukkapola, well-known by the police, driving a car together with two of his associates, tries to kill a Minnale in the rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis in Paris. After he runs him over, he drives back and runs on him, in vain. His enemy only gets a head injury. Return match on 17th May when Niranjan, the head of the Vennila, together with a member of the Minnale, kills a member of the Mukkapola in Paris 18th. Arrested, Niranjan is finally freed in April 2005, which irritates the Mukkapola and its allies - the Vinuthu, and the Snakes, these ones being at war as well with the Minnale but also with the tsunami – who attack their opponents in Sarcelles in the night of the 24th April. There are no victims, but for the first time ever, the Tamil gangs combined knives and firearms.

And yet, the Minnale and Vennila gangs did not break off their collaboration with the Tigers. In July 2005, the intelligence services indicate that when important representatives of the Tigers meet in a bar on the Faubourg-Saint-Denis, which they use as meeting point, accomplices of the Vennila keep an eye on the policemen of the police station just in front, only a few meters away. And, according to the same source, the two gangs would have committed several targeted burglaries in 2005 in Tamil houses in Sevran, Le Bourget, le Blanc-Mesnil, Garges-lès-Gonesse, Sarcelles, La Courneuve and le Thillay on behalf of the Tigers who would then finance their cause.

Rivalries between the bands do not stop for all that. During the second half of August 2006, confrontations took place on the Faubourg-Saint-Denis, apparently due to the death of a Tamil in Belgium on 14th August. And these acts of violence would suit the Tigers, since they draw the police and the justice attention and divert them from their activities. At least that’s what they were thinking, until April 2007 and the arrest of their head Parathi…


Table of contents of the book

Introduction 7

These billions coming from Russia 11
The Caucasian jigsaw puzzle 103
The Baltic method 138
The Romanian laboratory 163
The Bulgarian networks and grupovkas 193
Serbia: Mafiosi in battle-dress 220
The Bosnian and Croat arsenals 242
The Albanian web 257
A mafia in the Bosphorus 269
In the shade of Colombian cartels 281
Nigerian channels 319
China: the Middle Kingdom in Paris 342
The iron hand of the Tamil Tigers 378
What about the Italians? 387
Conclusion 439
Back cover


Laundering, immigration networks, prostitution, arm and drug trafficking, counterfeiting, racketeering… For the first time, a book deals with the international criminality established in France since the 1990’s.

The explosion of the Soviet bloc and the economy globalisation changed the dimensions of organised crime on our territory. Alongside the traditional “circles” and the big chiefs of deprived estates, you now have to take other actors of the criminal scene into account, such as these Georgian gangsters controlled by the biggest godfathers of the Russian mafia, or these Sri Lankan gangs killing one another in the Parisian suburbs. And new activities as well, from the sophisticated methods of computer hacking to data retrieval on bank terminals. The outlines of different mafias (Turkish, Chinese, Italian…) and other organized criminal groups (Colombian cartels, Russian, Caucasian and Balkan gangs) are taking shape in the shadow. Where are these organisations from and what are they doing exactly? How well are they established? Do they have links with the French organised crime? What kind of danger do they really embody?

Fuelled by confidential sources, the first feature investigation on the hidden face of the mafia planet on French soil.

Jérôme Pierrat is a journalist. He also wrote Une Histoire du Milieu (2003), Une vie de voyou (Michel Ardouin dit Porte-avions, 2005), La Mafia des cités (2006).
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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