LAWYERS FOR SRI LANKAN VICTIMS OF TERRORISM WHO ARE SUING RAJ RAJARATNAM AND HIS FATHER SAY THEY ARE HAVING A VERY GOOD CASE
Posted on October 26th, 2009

By Walter Jayawardhana

The American Lawyer magazine’s Litigation Daily website recently published an interview on the case in which Sri Lankan victims of terrorism sued alleged share market swindler Raj Rajaratnam for unspecified damages charging him and his father for donating millions to the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Michael Elsner of the Plaintiff firm Motley Rice said in the interview , “We think the case is very strong. The filing of the complaint is the culmination of a year’s worth of investigation. We think that we’ve uncovered evidence that Rajaratnam made payments to the Tamil Tiger terrorist organization.”

Elsner also said , “We were asked by some terrorism victims in Sri Lanka if we would investigate potential financiers of the [Tamil Tigers] from the United States. So we began to investigate who in the U.S. was providing this funding. We found a State Department cable that showed that [Rajaratnam] had provided millions to the LTO [the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization], which channeled those funds to the Tamil Tigers. We also gathered evidence from financial transactions that [Rajaratnam] had made in the public record.”

The following is the full interview the Litigation Daily published:-

Seven years ago, the South Carolina plaintiffs firm Motley Rice, which made its name in tobacco and asbestos mass tort litigation, filed a $1 trillion suit against members of the Saudi royal family on behalf of 9/11 victims and their families. Since then, the firm has become something of a private human rights avenger, filing a half-dozen other terrorism-related cases on behalf of victims around the world. The firm’s most recent headline-grabber: Thursday’s 67-page New Jersey federal district court complaint (pdf) against Raj Rajaratnam, the Galleon Group hedge fund founder indicted earlier this month for insider trading.

The plaintiffs in the Motley Rice suit — victims and survivors of attacks by the Tamil Tigers, a Sri Lankan separatist group — accuse Rajaratnam of funneling as much as $5 million to the Tigers via a Sri Lankan charity front. (Rajaratnam’s defense lawyer, James Walden of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, told Bloomberg the allegations are “flatly untrue and libelous.”) Though Motley Rice filed the suit now to capitalize on media interest in Rajaratnam following his arrest, the firm has been investigating the Galleon founder for a year.

On Friday we caught up with Michael Elsner, who heads Motley Rice’s intriguingly named “anti-terrorism and human rights” practice group, to ask him about Rajaratnam and Motley Rice’s other terrorism cases.

Litigation Daily: Thanks for talking with us. How strong is the case against Rajaratnam?

Elsner: We think the case is very strong. The filing of the complaint is the culmination of a year’s worth of investigation. We think that we’ve uncovered evidence that Rajaratnam made payments to the Tamil Tiger terrorist organization.

LD: Is it coincidence that you decided to file your lawsuit so soon after the Justice Department charged Rajaratnam with insider trading?

Elsner: We were unaware of the federal investigation. We would probably have suit filed in a month or two from now if not for that, but we felt it was important to file the complaint now.

LD: Why did you decide to investigate Rajaratnam in the first place?

Elsner: We were asked by some terrorism victims in Sri Lanka if we would investigate potential financiers of the [Tamil Tigers] from the United States. So we began to investigate who in the U.S. was providing this funding. We found a State Department cable that showed that [Rajaratnam] had provided millions to the LTO [the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization], which channeled those funds to the Tamil Tigers. We also gathered evidence from financial transactions that [Rajaratnam] had made in the public record.

LD: The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal by the 9/11 victims in [Motley Rice’s] lawsuit against the members of the Saudi royal family. That case was dismissed on the grounds that the Saudis are afforded protection under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Are the 9/11 cases dead in the water?

Elsner: No. There are many other defendants that are not foreign sovereigns. We also have suits against a collection of charitable organizations and individual defendants who we allege are knowing contributors to al-Qaida.

LD: Can you point to any successes your firm has had in bringing terrorism-related class actions?

Elsner: It’s a little too early to tell. We’ve been successful in overcoming motions to dismiss and are in discovery in many of our cases. With respect to the 9/11 litigation, we just have to see at the end of discovery where we are at. But we will continue to pursue these cases. We believe that the law provides a remedy for U.S. and foreign victims of terrorists.

LD: Thanks for your time.

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