The Swiss scam using a “false” Thuvaraka Prabhakaran

Friday, 8 December 2023 00:50 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The biggest bombshell of all was the real identity of the woman posing as Prabhakaran’s daughter Thuvaraka


Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran, his spouse Madhivadhani Erambu, daughter Thuvaraka and sons Charles Anthony and Balachandran along with thousands of other Tamils died in the final phase of the armed conflict at Mullivaaikkaal in the Karaithuriaipattru AGA division of Mullaitheevu district in May 2009.

Though 14 years have passed since the war ended, there are many who claim that the LTTE supremo is yet alive and that the body found on the shores of Nandhikkadal lagoon was a lookalike of Prabhakaran. Subsequently it was claimed that some other family members too were alive. In recent times there has been a concerted effort by Tigerish and pro-Tiger elements to make people believe that Prabhakaran, Madhivadhani and Thuvaraka are alive.

Furthermore it was projected that the LTTE was going to be revived under the leadership of the Tiger supremo’s daughter Thuvaraka Prabhakaran (her name is being spelt by many as Duvaraka and Dwaraka but I am following the manner in which the name is pronounced by Sri Lankan Tamils).

Theasathin Puthalvi (Nation’s daughter)

The campaign promoting the LTTE leader’s daughter described as the “Theasathin Puthalvi” (Nation’s daughter) reached its zenith on the LTTE’s “Maaveerar Naal” (Great Heroes Day) observed on 27 November 2023. It had been the practice in earlier times for LTTE leader Prabhakaran to deliver a speech on that day. The last time the oration was made was on 27 November 2008. In May 2009, the LTTE was militarily defeated and the hierarchy including Prabhakaran was no more. Though Maaveerar Naal was observed every year in many parts of the world on 27 November there was no annual address by Prabhakaran as the LTTE leader was not among the living.

However in an unexpected twist this year, it was proclaimed that Thuvaraka Prabhakaran would deliver the Great Heroes Day speech on behalf of her father from an undisclosed location. A sustained campaign of expectation was propagated. While the silent majority of Tamils quietly watched this brazen attempt to bamboozle the community, several voices were raised in protest against what was obviously a fraudulent exercise. This was resisted by the elements promoting the “duplicate” daughter. The pro-LTTE world was torn asunder by the so-called return of the Tiger leader’s daughter.

The exultant bang expected on 27 November ended as a pathetic whimper. The visual image of the woman on YouTube indicated very clearly that she was an impostor. Moreover the text of the speech was bland and uninspiring. It was obvious that it had been compiled by excerpting paragraphs and lines from previous speeches by Prabhakaran. But the biggest bombshell of all was the real identity of the woman posing as Prabhakaran’s daughter Thuvaraka.

Many Tamil residents of Switzerland recognised the woman posing as Prabha’s daughter to be none other than a woman named Mithuja Rajaratnam residing in Arbon Thurgau, Switzerland. She was also called Nithya and Suja. It was alleged by several people that the woman had been involved in many confidence tricks and had embezzled funds from gullible victims. She was also accused of pretending to be Prabhakaran’s daughter earlier and engaging in a racket to solicit cash donations from LTTE sympathisers and supporters for the medical expenses of her father.

Prabha’s family not living

Most Sri Lankan Tamils know that Prabhakaran and his family are not among the living. It is a truth that many do not want to talk about. When claims are made from time to time that the LTTE leader and family members are alive they know these are not true. However they find it difficult to contradict these bogus claims because they are reluctant to reiterate that Prabha and family members have died. Hence they remain quiet disbelievers when these false claims are made.

This was what happened when the fraudulent Thuvaraka claim was made too. While some refuted the bogus claim and challenged the bona fides of the claimant, the majority kept silent. But when an actual woman was shown as Thuvaraka, the scene shifted qualitatively from the abstract to concrete. When a not so unfamiliar woman with an allegedly notorious reputation of being a fraudster was projected as the LTTE leader’s departed daughter, it was too much to stomach. Moreover it was possible to concretely denounce the woman as an impostor instead of issuing abstract denials that Thuwaraka was no more. Hence the excreta collided with the oscillator!

It was also implicitly understood that the scam was being planned and executed with a material objective. The false Thuvaraka in her fraudulent address had referred to two key points. One was that a large number of Tamils in Sri Lanka were living in poverty and required help. The other was that many former Tigers and families of fallen cadre needed assistance. This was obviously a prelude to the launching of a fund raising campaign by pseudo-Thuvaraka to help “our brothers and sisters in need” in Sri Lanka. It was blatantly clear that the flagrant campaign to resurrect Thuvaraka was nothing but a money-making scam.

Hitherto silent majority

A terrible fury was unleashed by the hitherto silent majority against those allegedly responsible for this duplicitous exercise. The duplicate Thuvaraka dropped out from the public eye and is reportedly in hiding. The suspected scamsters who organised the racket and those public voices who promoted the false Thuvaraka were bombarded with emails, FB messages and telephone calls. Many became voluntarily incommunicado. There were many social media posts condemning the attempted fraud and those allegedly responsible.

It is against this backdrop that this column focuses on the duplicitous exercise of promoting a fraudster as the daughter of LTTE leader Veluppillai Prabhakaran. I had not intended to write about this earlier but am doing so now because of widespread requests by readers.

The fraudulent attempt to portray an impostor as the LTTE leader Prabhakaran’s daughter Thuvaraka is essentially a Swiss scam! The key character in this charade is a Swiss resident of Sri Lankan Tamil origin. The two main personalities who allegedly plotted and planned this scam are residents of Switzerland. Both of them are members of the LTTE. The speech was filmed at a “secret” location in Switzerland. Of course many others residing in countries such as Denmark, Norway, UK, France, Australia, India and Sri Lanka have collaborated in this scam either wittingly or unwittingly but the dynamo is basically Swiss.

The Swiss Tamil connection

What then makes Switzerland fertile ground for pro-Tiger activity? Why was that country a vital source generating funds for the LTTE in the past? It is necessary to delve into the recent past concerning the Swiss connection in LTTE affairs to understand this in proper perspective. Readers may recall that this column frequently resorts to the deep background approach in explaining or analysing current developments. This column therefore traces the evolution and growth of the LTTE in Switzerland in this article.

The Federal Republic of Switzerland is known officially as the Swiss Confederation. The landlocked European nation is respected highly on a global scale due to its policy of “armed neutrality” in global affairs. 

Switzerland is home to more than 55,000 Tamils of Sri Lankan origin now. Of these, about 35,000 have acquired Swiss citizenship. In the period before 2009, the Swiss Tamil population was about 40 to 45,000. While this number was less than that of the Tamil diaspora in countries like Canada, Britain, USA, France or Australia, the immense contribution made by the Tamils of Switzerland to the war effort of the LTTE in those days proportionately exceeded that of Tamils living in other Western countries. The LTTE functions in Switzerland under the aegis of the world Tamil Coordinating Committee (WTCC). This quantitative contribution earned Switzerland the description “Puligalin Thiraisaeri” (Tiger Treasury) in Europe. 

Switzerland had only a handful of Tamils decades ago. The numbers began increasing gradually as the ethnic conflict escalated in Sri Lanka. The 1979 declaration of emergency in Jaffna, during which Tamil youths like Inbam were executed in cold blood and several others incarcerated, resulted in large numbers of Tamil youth seeking political asylum in European countries. The enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) exacerbated this outflow further. 

The 1981 May-June violence in Jaffna where indiscipline sections of the police force burnt down the Jaffna public library, “Eezhanaadu” newspaper office, TULF headquarters and Jaffna MP Yogeswaran’s house saw another spurt in asylum seeking. Then came the July 1983 anti-Tamil pogrom which resulted in a massive ongoing migration of Tamils to European destinations. 

Thus, the Tamil population in Switzerland began increasing with boosts in 1979, 1981 and 1983. Thereafter, there has been a steady flow of Tamils into Switzerland over the years. Some Tamils have been moving out of the country too. In recent times, several media personnel from Sri Lanka have sought refuge in Switzerland. The flow of refugees and asylum seekers from Sri Lanka increased significantly in the past decade. Currently, there are over 3,500 refugee applicants from Sri Lanka in Switzerland. 

Unlike Tamils in countries like the UK, USA, Australia or Canada, the first generation of Swiss Tamils did not go in for higher education in a big way. They were also not well represented in white collar jobs. This situation is changing fast in Switzerland due to the second generation of Tamils who came to the country as young children or were born there. Most Tamils of an earlier period held blue collar jobs in factories, restaurants, transport, city maintenance, senior care and janitorial services. They were generally hard-working and earned about 2-4,000 francs per month (currently one Swiss franc equals 1.143 US dollars and 375.90 Lankan rupees). Several Tamils who earned well in Switzerland later relocated to Britain and Canada. 

LTTE gained supremacy

As stated earlier, the number of Sri Lankan Tamils in Switzerland was estimated at around 45,000 in 2009. These Tamils consisted of supporters from all Tamil political parties and militant organisations. Gradually, the LTTE began gaining supremacy; its plus point was the claim that the LTTE was the sole organisation conducting the armed struggle in Sri Lanka. Persuasion through intensive propaganda coupled with strong arm tactics helped the LTTE establish near monolithic control over the Tamils in Switzerland.

The LTTE in Switzerland received a massive fillip when Sathasivampillai Krishnakumar alias Kittu moved there from London in 1991. The widely-popular Kittu had been the Tiger military commander for Jaffna from 1984-1987. He had later set up an international secretariat for the LTTE in London. He was forced to move to Switzerland to evade possible arrest in Britain. 

Kittu’s short stay in Switzerland galvanised LTTE supporters. Credible pro-LTTE structures were set up. The charismatic Kittu was also able to attract large numbers of Tamils towards the LTTE in Switzerland. Kittu’s sojourn in Switzerland strengthened the hands of Nadarajah Muralitharan alias Murali, the then LTTE country leader for Switzerland. 

Building upon the groundwork laid by Kittu, Murali was able to refurbish and develop the LTTE in Switzerland. During Murali’s tenure from 1991 to 1997, the LTTE in Switzerland grew in strength. Murali set up a network of Tamil schools in Switzerland as well as a chain of grocery shops known as “Makkal Kadaigal” or people’s shops. A negative feature of Murali’s Swiss leadership was the recourse to violence to suppress opposition, stifle dissent or coerce people into paying up. 

The methods employed by Murali or Swiss Murali succeeded to a great extent and the Tigers were well-entrenched in Switzerland. LTTE rallies in Zurich, Berne and Geneva saw thousands attending. Tamils from Switzerland also helped increase crowds at meetings in other European countries. Swiss Tamils also achieved a proportionate first in terms of fundraising. The average Swiss Tamil contributed the largest amount to the LTTE on a per capita basis in those days. 

Fall of Murali

Murali became the blue-eyed boy of LTTE supremo Prabhakaran because of the result-oriented performance of Swiss Tamils. There was a time when Prabhakaran told a well-known announcer from the BBC Tamil service that Muralitharan of Switzerland was the most efficient of the LTTE’s overseas branch heads. But Murali like Humpty Dumpty, was to have a great fall! 

In 1996, Murali along with 14 other LTTE activists, were arrested by Swiss authorities for alleged violence, intimidation and extortion. Subsequently, Murali was detained for eight months while the others were released on bail. Muralitharan on his part sued Swiss authorities for wrongful arrest and confinement. Meanwhile, efforts were underway to threaten and persuade Tamil witnesses from testifying against Murali. 

During the period Murali was in jail, his detractors within the LTTE managed to convince the LTTE hierarchy that he had to be removed from office for the benefit of the movement. One of the charges against Murali was his alleged friendship with a pretty woman from Tamil Nadu living in Switzerland. It was alleged that she was an agent of the Indian espionage outfit, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). 

So, Murali was removed from office on the orders of Prabhakaran after he was acquitted and released in 1997. Murali was ordered to return to the Wanni. Refusing to do so, the former Swiss Tiger leader relocated to Canada with his family. He now resides in Canada but is yet referred to as “Swiss Murali.” Interestingly, Murali won his case seeking damages for wrongful arrest and obtained a huge sum of money as compensation from Switzerland while living in Canada. 

Avro Kulam

Despite Swiss Murali’s downfall and departure, the LTTE continued to flourish in Switzerland. After a period of collective leadership, Chelliah Kulasekarasingham alias Kulam a.k.a. Avro Kulam was appointed Swiss Tiger chief. Kulam was a pioneering member of the LTTE and a close associate of Veluppillai Prabhakaran. Kulam became known as “Avro Kulam” after being arrested for alleged involvement in the bomb explosion in an Air Ceylon plane at Ratmalana in September 1978. 

Selvarasah Pathmanathan alias KP was at one time in charge of the LTTE overseas procurement or arms purchases. KP was also in overall charge of overseas LTTE administration and fundraising. Since KP and Kulam were old comrades there was a sound working relationship between them. But KP was removed from office by Prabhakaran in 2002 in what turned out to be an ill-advised move.

Kulam’s position was in jeopardy after KP was forced to quit in 2002. Manivannan alias Castro, the new overseas LTTE chief, regarded Kulam as a KP loyalist and began sidelining him. Kulam could not be removed from office by Castro as the veteran Kulam had a close, personal relationship with Prabhakaran. So, Castro began undermining Kulam and gave prominence and power to another person whose nom de guerre was Abdullah. It is this “Abdullah” who is responsible for much of the current Swiss shenanigans and is one of the two behind the Thuvaraka scam. 

Abdullah whose real name is Chelliah Jeyapalan hailed from Aanaikottai in Jaffna. He was made financial chief of the Swiss Tigers and effectively wielded real power. Kulam gradually deteriorated into a figurehead. Despite his growing ineffectiveness, there came a time when Kulam was forced out of even his nominal leadership position. 

“Avro” Kulam’s removal was in March 2009. The circumstances of his removal had an impact on LTTE fundraising in Switzerland. What had happened was that in 2007-2008, the LTTE conducted a massive fundraising campaign overseas for what it termed “Iruthi Yutham” or final war. Switzerland once again was at the forefront and a massive amount of money was raised both as general collection and special collection. 

But then, in early 2009, Castro instructed the Swiss Tigers to launch another special collection to buy arms. He was very keen that the Swiss Tigers with the reputation of being successful fundraisers for the LTTE should once again take the lead in this. But Kulam the Swiss LTTE chief was not willing and firmly opposed Castro on this. Kulam pointed out that the loans taken for the previous special collection had not been paid up and undertaking another special collection would be too much of a burden for the people to bear. 

With direct communications between Prabhakaran and Kulam being ruptured due to the escalation of war, it was easy for Castro and his chief henchman in Europe Sivaparan Perinbananayagm alias Nediyavan to remove Kulam from office. 

Vijayaratnam Sivanesan alias Ragupathy

Once again, a collective leadership was established and a fresh fundraising campaign spearheaded by Jeyapalan alias Abdullah was launched. This resulted in a split in the Swiss Tiger structure with Kulam and his loyalists being estranged and alienated. Vijayaratnam Sivanesan alias Ragupathy a.k.a. Ragu replaced Kulam as the new leader. A new front named Swiss Tamil Coordinating Committee was also set up. 

The special collection for the ostensible purpose of raising funds for an emergency purchase of arms struck a responsive chord among many Tiger supporters and loyalists because of the prevailing politico-military environment in Lanka. 

The LTTE was being rapidly boxed into a thin strip of littoral in the Karaithuriapatru AGA division along the Mullaiheeivu coast. When the overseas Tigers launched a fundraising campaign saying arms had to be acquired urgently to commence a counter-offensive and annihilate the enemy, an emotionally-overwrought diaspora began filling Tiger coffers again. Little did they realise then that the purchase and transport of additional arms – even if possible – could not have reversed the military balance in the Wanni during the final stages of the war. Nevertheless, the period between March 2009 and May 2009 saw a very large sum of money being raised worldwide through bank loans in the form of special collections.

Chelliah Jeyapalan Alias Abdullah

As usual, Switzerland was once again at the forefront and topped the list in raising funds. The financial head Chelliah Jeyapalan alias Abdullah spearheaded the collection drive. One of the methods resorted to by Tiger supporters in Switzerland was adopting fraudulent means to procure bank loans. It was estimated that huge sums of money had been taken as bank loans after falsifying documents relating to salary details and by overvaluing the worth of assets owned. 182 bank loans amounting to some 15 million Swiss francs had allegedly been taken this way to fill Tiger coffers. The negative consequences of this fund raising drive continue to be felt in Switzerland. What happened thereafter will be related in the second part of this article. 

(The writer can be reached at [email protected].)

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