US deports S'porean arms trader

US deports S'porean arms trader

Singaporean businessman Balraj Naidu Ragavan, who was jailed in the United States for trying to buy arms for the Sri Lankan rebel group Tamil Tigers, was released and deported here last week.

On Dec 16, the 51-year-old flew back from Dallas, where the US Customs Enforcement and Removal Field Office (ERO) is located, after serving almost four years in a federal prison.

He arrived in Singapore two days later while being escorted by ERO officers, according to a press release from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Homeland Security Department.

Field office director for ERO Dallas Simona L. Flores said that prisoners taken into custody by ERO from US jails are removed to their country of origin as soon as possible. "As a convicted felon, Mr Naidu is prohibited from re-entering the United States," she added.

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs was unable to comment by press time.

Mr Naidu's return came four years to the day when he was extradited to the US to face several charges, which included conspiring to export arms to the Tamil Tigers.

He was convicted in a Mary- land court a year later in 2010 and sentenced to 57 months' jail.

It was in April 2006 when an unsuspecting Mr Naidu was introduced to US undercover agents, with whom he negotiated to buy US$900,000 (S$1.1 million) worth of state-of-the-art weapons, including grenade launchers, sniper rifles and machine guns.

One of his four co-conspirators, Singaporean Haniffa Osman, went to Baltimore to test-fire several of the weapons in the summer of 2006. About 28 tonnes of weapons and ammunition were airlifted to the island of Guam.

The plan had been to offload the US-made weapons in international waters off the Sri Lankan coast, so that they could be picked up by the Tamil Tigers. But the conspirators, which included two Indonesians and a Sri Lankan, were arrested after inspecting the arms and transferring a further US$450,000.

Mr Haniffa, 62, who has completed a 37-month jail sentence, stayed back to testify in the 2010 trial before returning to Singapore.


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