Kumaran Padmanathan, the head of the department of arms procurement in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is under "detention", though not "legally under arrest," informed circles in Colombo believe.
Speaking on condition of anonymity they said that KP was under "heavy surveillance", a term which security experts interpreted as a
euphemism for "sustained and intense questioning."
The Sri Lankan authorities who also believe that the Thais had detained KP, felt constrained by the fact that the Thai authorities
were publicly denying a detention or arrest . "We cannot confirm the arrest until the Thai authorities do so," a top military official told Hindustan Times in Colombo on Wednesday.
DR Kaarthikeyan, the head of the Special Investigating Team (SIT) which probed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, believes that the
Thais have detained KP.
"It is certain that a person answering to the description of Kumaran Padmanathan has been detained by the Thai authorities," Kaarthikeyan said over the phone from New Delhi.
Apparently, the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also believes that KP has been detained, though not "arrested". The CBI Director Vijay Shanker at a press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday declined to use the term "arrest", which is a legal act, and preferred to use "detention" instead.
But many other Sri Lankan and Indian officials are not absolutely sure that the man in detention is KP. The identity of the detainee has to be established before making a formal announcement of his arrest.
The Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary, Palitha Kohana, had said that if the identity was established, Sri Lanka would promptly seek KP's extradition.India too would seek to extradite him or question him for his alleged involvement in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the CBI Director Vijay Shanker said.
Role in Rajiv killing was minor
On KP's role in the plot to assassinate Rajiv Gandhi, Kaarthikeyan said that the arms procurer was not among the 41 "accused" but was among the 20-odd "suspects" against whom there was no clear evidence.
"The SIT had questioned thousands of people. We wanted to question KP also, because he was the chief arms procurer for the LTTE. There were three other reasons for wanting to question him: firstly, his presence in Mumbai on the day of the assassination; secondly, his disappearance a few days later; and lastly, his telling someone in Chennai prior to the assassination that the LTTE was going to target the Indian leadership. But investigations revealed that his involvement in the conspiracy was minor. Any LTTE person could make the belt bomb used in the assassination," Kaarthikeyan said.
"Out of the thousands we had questioned, there was evidence only against 41. There were 20 plus others against whom there was no hard evidence and these were listed as suspects. Pathmanathan was one of the suspects," he explained.
The CBI Director Vijay Shanker however said that KP was a fugitive who was wanted in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and that a Chennai police station had posted a Red Corner notice for him. Shanker also said that India would ask Thailand to extradite him.
"We can ask for extradition but whether we succeed or not would depend on how we present the case," Karthikeyan added.