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M’sia nabs 12 men linked to terror group

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M'sian police following money trail in probe of 12 arrested over suspected bid to revive Tamil Tiger militant group of Sri Lanka

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police are pursuing the terrorism money trail of arrested Malaysians linked to the banned Sri Lankan militant group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Police detected "big amounts" being transferred among the 12 suspects detained last Thursday and Saturday, Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division head Deputy Commissioner Ayob Khan said.

He told The Star: "We believe such transactions to fund LTTE-related activities were conducted over a few years.

"It is still too early in the investigation but tracing such transactions, including bank accounts and recipients of the funds, is vital in our investigation into LTTE elements in Malaysia."

So far, investigations have revealed that the transactions occurred in the country only, but sources are not ruling out that international transactions are at play as well.

"For terrorism financing, the amount is not the main issue. The real offence is financing or helping terrorism groups by transferring funds.

"We've even detained those who donated RM100 (S$32) to terrorism groups," DCP Ayob said.

Police believed that an NGO with branches nationwide has been actively securing funds for LTTE-related activities and to revive the terror group, he said.

Between the 1980s and 2009, several NGOs were established in Malaysia to collect money and channel it to the terror group, he said.

He added: "We also made several arrests on LTTE elements over the years, including its leaders.

"One of the cases was a seizure of a shipment of weapons in Penang in the 1990s meant for LTTE fighters."

Last Saturday, five more men were detained for alleged links to LTTE.

This followed the arrests of seven men, including two Democratic Action Party (DAP) assemblymen, on Thursday, bringing the total number of those arrested to 12.

DAP is a partner in the ruling coalition.

On civil society groups' claim that the police should have recorded the statements of the two assemblymen instead of detaining them, he said all suspects were arrested under the Security Offences Special Measures (Sosma) 2012, as it was a security offence and not a normal criminal investigation.

"If we merely recorded their statements, I believe they will give 'on the surface' or bare minimum statements.

"They were detained under Sosma to enable us to investigate further and seize crucial items pertaining to the investigation," he said.

Deputy Commissioner Ayob said that as per standard procedures, family members were informed once the suspects were detained under Sosma.

"They will then be given access to lawyers after 48 hours," he said, adding that the two assemblymen were meeting their lawyers and family members yesterday.