By Walter Jayawardhana

The Indonesian Marine Corps General, Eric Wotulo (61) who was charged being the mastermind behind an attempt to smuggle hundreds of thousand dollars worth of weapons for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment by US District Judge Catherine C. Blake.

The man charged for the orchestrating of smuggling of high tech weapons for the US banned terrorist group in Baltimore USA will be deported back to his country after serving the federal jail term according to the judgment , FBI sources said.

The FBI conducted a three year long investigation and a dramatic sting operation using undercover agents contacting a Singapore based arms broker renting a room in Baltimore’s four star Inner Harbor Hotel to conduct the undercover operation. The FBI arrange for him to attend religious services at a Sunni Muslim mosque in a town called Laurel in Pennsylvania and even invited him to test fire the intended guns at a camouflaged police firing range in Harford County. In all times FBI agents posed as weapons dealers.

The ruse by the FBI tricked the LTTE who are also known as the Tamil Tigers to transfer US$ 700,000 to the purported arms dealers , who were actually the FBI undercover agents, as a down payment for millions of dollars worth of sniper rifles, submachine guns, night vision goggles , grenade launchers and other military grade hardware. The buyers were also interested in buying unmanned air vehicles mostly used for reconnaissance purposes and surface to air missiles.

The charges in the case said Wotulo and others conspired in the year 2006 to export the restricted material on behalf of the LTTE, a foreign terrorist group banned since 1997. They cannot either raise money or buy arms in the United States.

"Terrorists must not be permitted to use the United States as a source of funding or equipment," Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement after the sentencing. "We will continue to utilize all possible means to prevent terrorism, including undercover operations targeting people who attempt to obtain munitions in violation of our laws."

Central to the plan to acquire arms and munitions for the Tamil Tigers was the Aug. 2, 2006, transfer of $250,000 into a bank account in Maryland, prosecutors said. The next month, they said, two of Wotulo's associates, Haniffa Bin Osman and Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa, arrived in Saipan to meet with undercover officers and inspect the weapons that had been ordered for the Tamil Tigers.

An additional $452,000 payment for the weapons was made on Sept. 28, 2006, prosecutors said. The next day, Varatharasa, Wotulo and Bin Osman met with undercover officers in Guam and were arrested.

Another associate, Haji Subandi, 71, a citizen of Indonesia, was sentenced in December to 37 months in prison for his role in the conspiracy, as well as for two counts of money laundering and attempted exportation of arms and munitions. Varatharasa, 36, who is Sri Lankan, was sentenced to 57 months in prison for conspiracy and attempted arms exportation. Bin Osman, 55, from Singapore is scheduled to be sentenced in August on conspiracy and money laundering charges.


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