Members of the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers group allegedly extorted millions from ethnic Tamils in Switzerland to fund their armed revolt against the government in Colombo, Swiss newspapers reported today.
The allegations formed the basis for a series of police raids on Tuesday against Tamil individuals and companies across Switzerland, Zurich weeklies NZZ am Sonntag and SonntagsBlick said.
Prosecutors announced earlier this week that 10 people were arrested in the raids, of whom eight are still being detained.
Walburga Bur, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutors office in Bern, declined to comment on reports in Swiss media that those arrested included the head, the finance chief and other senior members in Switzerland of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, as the group is formally called.
SonntagsBlick quoted the lawyer for one alleged victim today as saying his client was forced to take out an 80,000 Swiss-franc (USD 83,000) loan and give the money to the rebel group's office in Switzerland.
Swiss prosecutors have now set up telephone hotlines to encourage others in Switzerland's large Tamil community who may have been victims of extortion to come forward.
Unlike in other European countries and the United States, the Tigers were never banned in Switzerland.
The group, which claimed to be fighting against decades of discrimination by Sri Lanka's ethnic Sinhalese majority, was crushed by the military in 2009 after a 25-year war in which tens of thousands died.