POLITICS

More smuggling charges laid in Tamil migrant case two years after ship's arrival

06/06/2012 01:01 EDT | Updated 08/06/2012 05:12 EDT
SURREY, B.C. - After a complex, international investigation that required over 700 interviews, RCMP have charged three more men with human smuggling in the case of the MV Sun Sea, which landed on Canada's West Coast almost two years ago with 492 Tamil migrants on board.

Six people in total have now been charged in the incident and police are turning their focus to the court proceedings.

RCMP Supt. Derek Simmonds told a news conference Wednesday the charges are not just for leadership of the vessel, but also for organizing the voyage.

"These three new charges. . . clearly demonstrate the level of commitment the RCMP has to work with domestic and international partners in order to ensure human smuggling offences are painstakingly investigated," said Simmonds.

Simmonds said 95 per cent of the interviews conducted by police were in a foreign language and nearly 400,000 pages of information were compiled during the investigation.

Police forces in Thailand, Australia, France and Norway have all helped with the investigation.

"This has been an exceptionally complex case for us and all of the partners," said Simmonds. "It's been a long and laborious exercise."

When the vessel first arrived in August 2010, there were about 200 investigators processing the evidence, said Simmonds. Since then, there has been a core of 25 investigators working on the case.

The new charges were laid against Thampeernayagam Rajaratnam, Nadarajah Mahendra, and Sathyapavan Aseervatham.

Rjaratnam was arrested Tuesday, but the other two are not in custody and do not appear to be in Canada.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews welcomed news of the arrests.

"Canada is a generous and compassionate country that welcomes newcomers, but Canadians are not naïve," the minister said in a written statement.

"Canada will not tolerate abuse of our immigration system for financial gain through the despicable crime of migrant smuggling."

Two of the men who were arrested in May — Lesly Jana Emmanuel and Kunarobinson Christhurajah — were charged with organizing, inducing and aiding the operation that brought the Tamils by boat to British Columbia.

A third man, Thayakaran Markandu, was also charged but he has been living in France and the RCMP are still waiting for his extradition.

The RCMP does not expect further charges in the case.

David Poopalapillai, spokesman for the Canadian Tamil Congress, said the RCMP have done good work on the investigation, but the charges should not overshadow the heartbreaking stories of many of the people who were on the boat.

As of May, the Immigration and Refugee Board said only six people who were on the boat have been accepted as refugees.

"There were 500 people who boarded the ship and came here, and there are 500 different stories," said Poopalapllai.

"We have to listen to those stores one by one, and make up our own judgement."