Tamil Tiger faction head questioned in Norway: Report

Sri Lankan forces crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009.

Colombo: The leader of a powerful faction of Sri Lanka`s separatist Tamil Tigers has been questioned in Norway as part of a probe into extortion by the group, Sri Lankan media reported on Friday.

Norwegian officials confirmed a man had been questioned in a Norwegian court, on the request of Dutch authorities carrying out an investigation, but declined to name him.

Sri Lankan media said the man was Perinbanayagam Sivaparan, also known as Nedivayan, who officials and diplomats say heads a faction advocating armed struggle.

Sri Lankan forces crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LITE) in May 2009, ending their three-decade armed campaign to establish a separate nation for the Indian Ocean island`s minority Tamils.

The LTTE routinely extorted a "war tax" from Tamils abroad by threatening to harm their relatives in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka`s government says one of two remaining LTTE factions is led by Nedivayan, and accuses it of raising funds to restart the war.

Norway`s Foreign Ministry, in a statement released through the embassy in Colombo, declined to identify the individual, but confirmed that a person of Sri Lankan origin was questioned in a Norwegian court.

"I can confirm a person was interviewed in Norway as part of an investigation into Tamil Tiger fundraising activities. We have not issued an arrest warrant for him," said Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch prosecutor`s office.

De Bruin declined to give the name of the person interviewed, but said Dutch police arrested seven people last year suspected of raising money for the Tamil Tigers. Five were released and two were still in custody, he said.

Sri Lankan-born journalist DBS Jeyaraj, based in Canada and long considered by diplomats in Sri Lanka one of the foremost authorities on the LTTE, reported on his website www.dbsjeyaraj.com that the individual questioned was Nedivayan.

Nedivayan could not be reached for comment.

Colombo-Oslo ties have been fraught for years, after Norway brokered a 2002 ceasefire with the Tigers that fell apart and led to the final fight that destroyed the LTTE. Sri Lanka`s accuses it of aiding the LTTE, which Norway denies.

LTTE fundraising

The United States, Canada and several European countries over the past five years have brought prosecutions against LTTE associates for crimes related either to violating terrorism financing laws or extortion and weapons smuggling.

The LTTE`s remnants have split into two factions, intelligence officials and diplomats say, with Nedivayan believed to head the Europe-based one that advocates armed struggle and has control of major LTTE financial assets.

The other has styled itself as the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, and says its aim is the peaceful establishment of a Tamil nation -- or Tamil Eelam -- through elected representation among members of the Tamil Diaspora worldwide.

Bureau Report