Sept. 11: The Central Bureau of Investigation is trying to verify reports that Kumaran Padmanathan, the man said to be behind the belt-bomb that killed Rajiv Gandhi, has been arrested in Bangkok.
Reports coming in from the Thailand capital said the 49-year-old, considered the “kingpin” of the LTTE’s global arms network, was arrested yesterday by Interpol after a manhunt that stretched across Johannesburg, Yangon and Singapore.
“The Indian mission in Bangkok has been asked to confirm Padmanathan’s arrest,” a CBI source said in Delhi.
The agency has also given Thai authorities details of cases pending against Padmanathan — also known as KP — and sought their assistance in handing him over to face trial for Rajiv’s murder.
The former Prime Minister was killed during a 1991 election rally in Tamil Nadu when an LTTE rebel detonated her belt-bomb as he leaned forward to accept a garland.
Padmanathan, the head of the banned group’s international wing and declared one of the most wanted terrorists by Interpol, is said to have arranged for the belt.
Initial reports suggested the arrest came after three rebels were detained last month in Thailand while trying to buy guns and 45,000 rounds of ammunition.
One report quoted an LTTE source as saying the arrest was like a heart attack. The CBI has been on Padmanathan’s trail for over a decade. An agency team had even travelled to New Zealand and questioned three Tamil nationals, sources said. The CBI also approached over 20 other countries, including Sweden where the rebel leader was believed to be hiding. Swedish authorities, however, said he had fled the country.
Padmanathan, who is said to have floated shipping companies worldwide to smuggle arms and has an Indian passport among the many he holds, figured in the report of the Jain Commission that probed the conspiracy behind Rajiv’s murder.
D.R. Karthikeyan, former chief of the special investigation team that probed the case, said Padmanathan shopped for arms, explosives, electronic gadgets and sophisticated wireless sets. Even after the assassination, Padmanathan was making use of locations in India “to refurbish the LTTE’s arsenal”, Karthikeyan says in his book Triumph of Truth.