2ND LEAD (Adds details)
Norway refutes SL Diplomat's passport allegation against LTTE
[TamilNet, Tuesday, 22 May 2007, 11:32 GMT]
Norwegian Government, in a press release issued Tuesday, categorically denied that "large number of Norwegian Passports were stolen," and said that the allegation are "drawing links between unrelated matters and have no basis in reality." In an interview to the Washington Post Radio last week, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to U.S., Bernard Gunatillake, had alleged that the Liberation Tigers of Tamileelam (LTTE) had stolen Norwegian passports and sold them to organizations including Al Qaeda. He had also alleged that a "LTTE rebel" was caught in Thailand with 700 of the stolen passports.
Gunatillake, a career diplomat, was the first Director General of Sri Lankan Government's Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP).
Full text of the press release issued by the Norwegian Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs follows:
Date: 22.05.07Norway categorically denies that a large number of Norwegian passports have been stolen
Bernard Gunatillake, Sri Lanka's Ambassador to US
Recently there have been reports in the Sri Lankan and other media that 130 000 Norwegian passports have been stolen and that 700 blank passports have been confiscated in Thailand. Furthermore, there are allegations that the LTTE is involved, and has redistributed Norwegian passports to Al Qaeda. These allegations are drawing links between unrelated matters and have no basis in reality. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs would therefore like to clarify the facts.
The Norwegian police confirms that a policeman has sold nine blank passports to a Norwegian national of Sri Lankan origin. Both of the implicated persons were sentenced to imprisonment in 2006 for this serious offence.
Like other countries, Norway wants to stop the illicit use of national travel documents by criminals. Therefore, Norway has established one of the world's most effective systems for reporting individual passports that are missing to both Interpol and other Schengen countries. Over the last 10 years, Norway has reported 130 000 missing passports to Interpol. This figure includes all the passports that have been registered by the police as lost or stolen.
It corresponds to the figures for comparable countries in Europe, and is considerably lower than the figures for the larger European countries.
The Norwegian authorities have no information suggesting that 700 passports have been confiscated in Thailand, and neither are 700 blank passports missing. The Norwegian police has no information indicating that the LTTE or Al Qaeda are in the possession of missing Norwegian passports.