WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday froze the assets of a Maryland-based charity that officials accuse of having given money to the Tamil Tiger rebels in Sri Lanka.
The Tamil Foundation, based in Cumberland, Md., has acted as a support network for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist group, the agency said in a statement.
Foundation owner Dr. Nagaratnam A. Ranjithan, a Sri Lankan immigrant, denied the allegation in a telephone interview.
“The Tamil Foundation has nothing to do with the Tigers,” said Ranjithan, a kidney disease specialist who has practiced in the western Maryland city for 32 years.
He described the foundation as a private charity dedicated to improving the lives of the Tamils, a mainly Hindu minority group of about 3 million in the nation of 19 million off India’s southern tip.
The rebels have been fighting since 1983 for an independent Tamil state in the north.
The Treasury action freezes the foundation’s U.S. assets and prohibits Americans from engaging in any transactions with the group.
Treasury official Adam Szubin said the Tigers have “relied on so-called charities to raise funds and advance its violent aims.”
In 2007, the agency froze the assets of the U.S. branch of the Tamils Rehabilitation Organization, a public charity that Ranjithan also heads. On Wednesday, the government alleged that for many years, the foundation and the TRO have co-mingled funds and carried out coordinated financial actions.
Ranjithan has denied that the TRO funnels money to the Tigers.
He acknowledged that the foundation has given money to the TRO and has offered to match donations to the TRO. He said the foundation also has given money to other charities in Sri Lanka and has been funding a school and a children’s home there.
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