October 22, 2009
Sri Lankan terrorism victims charge Wall Street hedge fund manager, Rajaratnam, with financing Tamil Tigers
NEWARK, N.J. — Wall Street hedge fund manager Rajakumara Rajaratnam and his father, J. M. Rajaratnam, knowingly provided financial and other support to the Tamil Tigers, more than 30 victims and survivors of the terrorist group's attacks alleged today.
In a complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, family members of those killed and survivors of bombings committed by the group formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE), alleged that Rajaratnam and the family foundation headed by his father provided millions of dollars in funds used for terrorist attacks.
The seven-count complaint, the result of a year-long investigation, was filed under the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 which grants non U.S. citizens access to the U.S. Courts to seek justice for violations of "the law of nations," such as crimes against humanity and terrorism, no matter where they occur.
"I will do anything to stop the LTTE menace and its suicide bombings," said Diyawadanage Subashini Sagarika Priyadarshani, widow of Kuruppu Appuhamylage Karunaratna, an Olympic athlete and champion marathon runner who was killed when an LTTE suicide bomber attacked the marathon in which he was running on April 6, 2008 in Weliweriya, Sri Lanka.
"We are seeking justice for the victims of LTTE terrorism, accountability for those whose money paid for the injuries and murder of our clients and their loved ones, and a strong deterrent against anyone who seeks to support terrorists of any stripe," said counsel for the plaintiffs, Michael Elsner of Motley Rice LLC.
"The defendants, we allege, have the plaintiffs' blood on their hands because those who paid for murder are just as culpable as those who committed the acts," Elsner said. "We have what we believe is incontrovertible evidence that the money of Mr. Rajaratnam and his father made its way to the LTTE as intended, that they knew the LTTE was engaged in a massive campaign of terrorism, and that they supported the LTTE's goals and tactics."
"Everything is lost now," said Hathwellge Dona Siryani. Her daughter, Shanika Oshadi Peillassage, was killed along with her boyfriend, Anjana Thanuska Habaraduwa Hewage, in the November 28, 2007 bombing of a crowded "No Limit" clothing store at Nugegoda junction in a suburb of Colombo. The victims were months away from their planned wedding.
"Our loss cannot be replaced," said Karunamunige Krishanthi. Her husband, Hettige Priyantha Perera Jayatunga, was killed, and she and her daughter were injured in the "No Limit" bombing. She was hospitalized for nearly two months and did not learn about her husband's death until her release. Her daughter, now age six, was in the hospital for three weeks. Both continue to suffer pain from their injuries and the family was forced to move when they were unable to pay the rent following Jayatunga's death.
"Today when we get up in the morning, we feel that it would be better to have died than to live," said Wijayan Rajaratnam, father of Rajaratnum Radeeswaran, who was killed February 3, 2008 when an LTTE suicide bomber attacked the Fort Railway train station in Colombo. His son was captain of his baseball team and a Tamil, the same ethnic group as the LTTE, whose terrorist acts did not discriminate between the targeted Sinhalese and the Tamils.
From 2004 through 2009, LTTE conducted hundreds of attacks, including several suicide bombings and political assassination attempts. According to the FBI, LTTE is responsible for the murders of over 4,000 people since 2006. The terrorist organization was the first to use suicide attacks on a widespread basis, a tactic subsequently adopted by al Qaeda and Hamas, among others. Most of LTTE's funding and weapons procurement came from a network of international front charities and non-governmental organizations controlled by LTTE.
The complaint documents the transfer of millions of dollars from Rajaratnam and his family's foundation to the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), which was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2007 as a "charitable organization that acts as a front to facilitate fundraising and procurement for the LTTE." The TRO's assets were immediately frozen.
According to the complaint, Rajaratnam gave $1 million to the TRO's U.S. branch in 2004 in response to LTTE's calls for renewed funding in anticipation of the "final war." This money was funneled from TRO-US accounts to TRO headquarters in Sri Lanka. Rajaratnam had previously made a $1 million contribution to TRO following the LTTE's successful "Elephant Pass" guerrilla campaign. These donations "demonstrate Rajaratnam's contributions were given with the intent of supporting specific LTTE attacks and operations," the complaint charges.
The complaint also documents donations from the Rajaratnam Family Foundation to the TRO totaling well over $5 million from 2001 to 2007.
As further evidence that Rajaratnam clearly supported LTTE's campaign of terrorism, the complaint cites allegations that letters introducing Rajaratnam were provided to LTTE founder and leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran between December 2002 and June 2003. The letters of introduction to Prabhakaran, who was killed in 2009, were arranged by Karunakaran Kandasamy (Karuna), a TRO fundraiser and an LTTE operative who pled guilty in U.S. courts to criminal charges of materially supporting LTTE in June 2009. In letters to senior LTTE leaders in Sri Lanka, Karuna described Rajaratnam as a wealthy Tamil supporter in the United States who was "among the people who provide financial support for our struggle for freedom" and as someone who "has been working actively on the forefront."
In addition, Rajaratnam's father wrote on ITSA's website that "Historically, freedom movements have been labeled as terrorist organizations by the oppressors . . . "Terrorists' have in their lifetime become His excellencies.'" He added, "LTTE has not engaged in any killing that is not justifiable in the context of war."
The counts brought by the lawsuit are: aiding and abetting terrorist acts universally condemned as violations of the law of nations; aiding and abetting, intentionally facilitating, and/or recklessly disregarding crimes against humanity in violation of international law; reckless disregard; wrongful death; survival; negligence; and negligent and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Motley Rice attorneys pioneered anti-terrorism-financing litigation with landmark lawsuits brought on behalf of the victims of 9/11, anti-Israeli suicide bombings, IRA bombings and other terrorist attacks. To learn more contact attorney Michael Elsner (NY, SC, VA) or read about our Anti-Terrorism litigation area. Motley Rice has co-counseled with Lite DePalma Greenberg & Rivas, LLC, of Newark, New Jersey on this case. The law firm of Lite DePalma Greenberg & Rivas, LLC has earned a national reputation for litigation of complex civil and criminal matters. They have extensive litigation experience in state and federal trial and appellate courts.
The case is known as Krishanthi et al. v. Rajaratnam et al.