By C. Bryson Hull
COLOMBO (Reuters) - A Sri Lankan-born Tamil has been questioned in Norway as part of a Dutch probe into extortion by the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan media on Friday identified him as the leader of one the defeated separatist group's most powerful remaining factions.
Sri Lankan media said that Perinbanayagam Sivaparan, also known as Nedivayan, was taken for questioning before a Norwegian court at the request of a visiting Dutch judicial team looking into extortion by the remnants of the Tamil Tigers.
Sri Lankan forces crushed the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May 2009, ending their three-decade armed campaign on the Indian Ocean island to establish a separate nation for Sri Lanka's minority Tamils.
The LTTE routinely extorted a "war tax" from Tamils abroad by threatening to harm their relatives in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka's government says one of two remaining LTTE factions is led by Nedivayan, and accuses it of raising funds to restart the war.
Norway's foreign ministry, in a statement released through the embassy in Colombo, declined to identify the individual, but confirmed that a person of Sri Lankan origin was questioned in a Norwegian court.
"The individual was interviewed as a witness at the request of Dutch authorities regarding a case currently being investigated in the Netherlands," the statement said.
Norway's biggest private television, TV2, said an unidentified Norway-based Tamil gave evidence on Wednesday to Dutch authorities in a closed-door hearing about terrorist financing.
Sri Lankan-born journalist D.B.S. Jeyaraj, based in Canada and long considered by diplomats in Sri Lanka one of the foremost authorities on the LTTE, reported on his website www.dbsjeyaraj.com that the individual questioned was Nedivayan.
Nedivayan could not be reached for comment.
Colombo-Oslo ties have been fraught for years, after Norway brokered a 2002 ceasefire with the Tigers that fell apart and led to the final fight that destroyed the LTTE. Sri Lanka's accuses it of aiding the LTTE, which Norway denies.
Security experts believed the LTTE at its peak brought in as much as $300 million annually via fundraising, extortion, smuggling, credit card fraud and legitimate front businesses.
Sri Lanka has long complained that Western governments ignored such activity under their noses by a group that was on U.S, U.N. and European Union terrorism lists.
The United States, Canada and several European countries over the past five years have brought prosecutions against LTTE associates for crimes related either to violating terrorism financing laws or extortion and weapons smuggling.
The LTTE's remnants have split into two factions, intelligence officials and diplomats say, with Nedivayan believed to head the Europe-based one that advocates armed struggle and has control of major LTTE financial assets.
The other has styled itself as the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, and says its aim is the peaceful establishment of a Tamil nation -- or Tamil Eelam -- through elected representation among members of the Tamil diaspora worldwide.
(Additional reporting by Wojciech Moskwa in Oslo; Editing by Ron Popeski)