Categories
Foreign Affairs

Spanish-Thai forgery probe reveals new links to LTTE

Spanish and Thai police investigating a gang that supplied forged passports to al-Qaeda linked groups have found new evidence of links to Sri Lanka’s defeated Tamil Tiger rebels, Spanish authorities said today.

Spanish and Thai police are analysing material seized late on Tuesday in a joint operation in which 10 people -eight Pakistanis, a Nigerian and a Thai national – were arrested in the two countries, Spain’s interior ministry said in a statement.

The 10 are suspected of providing forged passports to organisations linked to Al-Qaeda, including the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused of plotting the attacks in Mumbai that killed at least 166 people in November 2008, as well as to the Tamil Tigers.

Police seized forged passports, immigration documents, faked rubber stamps, computers, mobile phones, passport photos, British driving licences and sophisticated counterfeiting equipment in the swoop named Operation Kampai.

Spanish police experts “have travelled to Thailand and are working with Thailand’s department of special investigations to analyse the numerous documents seized from the cell,” the interior ministry said Friday.

“An initial examination of photographs seized has turned up evidence of the membership of some members of the terrorist organisation the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.”

The LTTE “has perpetrated bloody attacks, many of them by suicides, such as that which killed the former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

“Many of its members were based in Western countries, where they obtained financial assistance for the organisation through extortion and drug trafficking,” it said.

The LTTE fought a violent 37-year campaign for an independent Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka before being crushed by government forces last year.

Thai police said yesterday that the three arrested in Thailand – two Pakistani men and a Thai woman – were part of criminal networks tied to “many terrorist attacks”.

These included the 2004 Madrid bombings, when blasts on packed commuter trains in a city suburb killed 191 people and wounded 1,841 others. However, Spanish authorities have not confirmed any such link to those arrested.

Spanish police detained seven suspects – six Pakistanis and a Nigerian – in the northeastern city of Barcelona during the operation.

Categories
Domestic

Sri Lanka unveils tax reforms to boost post-war economy

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse yesterday announced a major tax reform package aimed at boosting the economy of the island as it recovers from the civil war that ended last year, reports AFP.

Rajapakse, who is also finance minister, unveiled the new measures as he presented the annual budget for 2011 with the deficit predicted to fall to 6.8 per cent of gross domestic product from 8.0 per cent this year.
He slashed import taxes on many capital goods, including on vehicles and industrial machinery by 25 per cent, and also simplified taxes charged on imports and retail trade. “Having ended the war, and with vital infrastructure in place, we are now in a better position to engage in an accelerated development process within the next six years,” Rajapakse said.

As part of foreign exchange liberalisation, he said foreigners in future would be able to buy into companies through local investment funds.

He also announced plans to lower value added tax for banks from 20 per cent to 12 per cent, ease taxes on construction companies to 12 per cent and offer breaks on commodity exports like tea, rubber and spices.
Tax breaks for the fisheries, agriculture and construction sectors were among the schemes to boost economic activity in the island after the bloody conflict between government troops and Tamil separatists ended in May 2009.

“One of the main objectives of my government is to double per capita income to 4,000 dollars by 2016,” Rajapakse said. “But, that is not the only objective, I want real incomes to go up.” “A high per capita economy will help us to regain many opportunities we have lost during the war years.”

Rajapakse, who has a strong grip on power in Sri Lanka after overseeing the defeat of Tamil Tiger rebels, raised taxes on casinos, alcohol and international phone calls.
Charges for overseas calls have fallen to historic lows due to stiff competition among phone companies.

The president said he would cut income tax for tourism- related businesses, but added tax breaks would favour more expensive hotels in Sri Lanka in an attempt to push the island towards the luxury holiday market.

Categories
Military

Sri Lanka Rules out Defence Agreement with Pakistan

Sri Lanka has firmly ruled out any defence cooperation pact with Pakistan although they maintained very strong military ties during the height of the ethnic war in the country.

Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the powerful defence secretary, said the government did not discuss the possibility of a Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) during the recent four-day visit by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

`President Mahinda Rajapakse hadn`t discussed any defence-related proposal with his Pakistani counterpart,` the privately-run Island newspaper today quoted the Defence Secretary, who is also the president`s younger brother.

The Island said the defence secretary dismissed what he called unsubstantiated media reports on a post-war DCA between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

However, a joint statement issued by Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the end of Zardari`s visit last month said they had agreed to promote a dialogue on, among other things, defence and security issues.

Zardari, who held closed-door talks with President Rajapakse, discussed increasing trade and defence cooperation, the president`s office said on November 28.

It gave no details of the defence cooperation, but Pakistan was a main supplier of arms and ammunition when government forces were locked in combat with Tamil Tiger rebels.
Pakistan provided heavy weapons that were used to crush the Tamil Tigers in May last year which brought an end to their 37-year violent struggle for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka.

Gotabhatya told the Sri Lankan daily that his brother`s government had not entered into any DCA during the fighting with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), though the country acquired arms, ammunition and equipment from several countries, including Pakistan.