London, July 8: The Asian community in Britain was once seen as law abiding but perhaps no longer.
As part of an ongoing operation against “Asian crime”, 250 police officers today raided 22 addresses in north and east London in an effort to root out Sri Lankan criminals.
Police said that some of the offenders were probably seeking to terrorise the 200,000 strong Sri Lankan community to raise funds for the Tamil Tigers.
It has long been suspected — in fact, pretty well known — that Tamil Tigers have been active in Britain but previously “Asian on Asian” crime appears to have slipped the net since the police have had other problems to worry about.
A senior Sri Lankan source, who asked not to be named, told The Telegraph: “Sinhala are not involved, this is only in the Tamil community.”
Recently there have been shootings and killings of Tamils by Tamils and police have set up a special cell to deal with this. In today’s dawn raid, 13 men, all Sri Lankan and aged between 18 and 25, were arrested, and weapons seized included swords and axes. The raids were part of Scotland Yard’s Operation Enver.
Some Tamils, who work late nights in petrol stations, have themselves been vulnerable to attacks by armed gangs of all races seeking the cash contents of their tills.
Commander Alfred Hitchcock, of the Metropolitan Police, today issued a tough warning: “We have been looking at the criminality and violence within the Tamil community, we have made inroads with these arrests, but it is not the end of the process. There will be more police enforcement.”
He said: “The majority of the Sri Lankan community are very law abiding, but there are small groups of people taking advantage, intimidating them and committing these offences.”
He could not rule out that some of the offences were being committed to raise funds for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.
Other crime could be for personal gain.
According to Scotland Yard, five of the men were arrested from a single address, from where police recovered three swords, three axes, baseball bats and hockey sticks, a credit card reader and credit cards.
At another address five more were arrested, two for suspected money laundering and three for suspected theft and fraud offences.
A total of £11,000 was seized from this address, plus 4,500 blank cheques, 69 credit cards, two computers, 15 video recorders and a £30,000 Mercedes car.
Another man was arrested on a warrant from Northampton, and two more were arrested over a suspected drugs deal.
Late today, the scope of the operation was expanded and the size of the police task force involved in cracking down on Sri Lankan gangs doubled to 500 officers, making this one of the biggest that has been undertaken.
Tonight, police checks were being made in the London boroughs of Brent, Harrow, Redbridge, Croydon and Newham.
Police have also set up a confidential hotline to encourage Sri Lankans to offer intelligence without fear of retribution.