“One of the best parts of my job is the number of bright, young people that I’ve met, and every year there are a few that really stand out. And that was Suresh in his year.”
Steve Farlow has been executive director of the Schlegal Centre for Entrepreneurship at Wilfrid Laurier University for 11 years.
According to him, Suresh Sriskandarajah, 32, who earned his masters of business administration (MBA) at Laurier, was an “exceptional” student. But at the beginning of July, Sriskandarajah pleaded guilty to accusations regarding his affiliation with a terrorist organization in Sri Lanka.
Sriskandarajah’s case stems back to 2006 when he was arrested along with six other men who were accused in a joint FBI-RCMP investigation of providing material support to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a group of Sri Lankan rebels better known as the Tamil Tigers.
Court filings note that between September 2004 and April 2006, Sriskandarajah “assisted a principal LTTE procurement officer in researching and acquiring aviation technology. He used students as couriers to smuggle prohibited items into territory in Sri Lanka that was controlled by the LTTE at the time. He also helped the LTTE launder its proceeds in the United States and elsewhere”.
It was during Sriskandarjah’s bail that he attended Laurier, earning himself the CIBC Leaders in Entrepreneurship Award in May 2008.
“He volunteered and helped out enormously with our programs in innovation and entrepreneurship,” Farlow explained. “After he graduated, he continued on a voluntary basis to play a mentorship role with our programs here.”
Since then he has married and began law school at the University of Ottawa. All the while he was fighting extradition.
But recent developments in his case involve him being extradited to the United States in December. And, as the US Attorney’s Office declared on July 2, he pleaded guilty in New York to conspiring to provide material support to LTTE, “in connection with his attempt to procure sophisticated military technology, including submarine and warship design software and night vision equipment for the LTTE.”
He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Farlow explained that he has kept in close contact with Sriskandarajah throughout his case, even attending his wedding.
Now that Sriskandarajah has been imprisoned, Farlow hears news about him from his mother and wife.
“Everyone is upset he pleaded guilty to anything,” Farlow said. “But there’s release and the end in sight. This story that has been seven years long and what has been a massive disruption for his family— massive— the final chapter is now being written.”
Farlow emphasized the quality of Sriskandarajah’s character, as he knew him to be a “compassionate young man” and that it “was the others that really pulled him into this.”
“It just depends on your perspective,” Farlow continued. “A passionate human being who was naïve and got caught up in something that he didn’t understand, or is he a terrorist? It’s all how it’s framed, but I know it’s the first.”
“I believe he is guilty of being naïve,” Farlow stated. “But no question, Suresh was naïve and was caught up in some nasty stuff, which is uncharacteristic of him.”
Sriskandarajah’s sentencing date has yet to be released to the public.
“I hope that the sentencing is fair and that he can come back to Canada to pursue his law school,” Farlow concluded.