The MV Sun Sea was a commercial shipping vessel that was used to bring 492 Tamil smuggled migrants to Canada. The vessel was monitored from about May 2010 when it was sighted in the Gulf of Thailand. It was intercepted off the coast of Vancouver Island, BC on 12 August 2010. The arrival of the vessel was surrounded by allegations that the vessel carried 'dozens' of member of the LTTE, a Sri Lankan separatist group. 12 of the persons on board served as vessel's crew during the vessel. Six men were later charged in connection with this incident.
The MV Sun Sea (formerly called the Harin Panich 19) was a 30-year-old Japanese built vessel that, prior to being used for the migrant smuggling venture to Canada, was 'set to be retired from excursions and sold for scrap due to its age and condition'.
The planning of the MV Sun Sea venture reportedly started some time in August 2009, one year before the vessel arrived in British Columbia, Canada. The vessel was monitored from about May 2010 when it was first apprehended in the Gulf of Thailand. The smuggled migrants boarded the vessel at different stages between April and July 2010. At the time the passengers boarded the vessel, it was manned by Thai crew who left the vessel two or three days later. It was originally believed that the 59-metre long, Thai-registered vessel was bound for Canada, but changed its course to Australia after experiencing engine trouble. In late June 2010, it was again suggested that the vessel may be bound for Canada. Later reports dismissed suggestions that the vessel was ever bound for Australia. After leaving the Gulf of Thailand, the MV Sun Sea sailed through Malaysian waters and the Philippines across the Pacific towards Canada's West Coast.
It appears that the passengers had come from Sri Lanka to Thailand in a variety of ways and that they were 'recruited' by agents in Thailand approximately two weeks before boarding the vessel. Most of the passengers initially came together in Bangkok, before they were moved to southern Thailand and ferried on small fishing vessels to the MV Sun Sea. A report published by UNODC in April 2013 suggests that the smuggled migrants had travelled from Jaffna to Bangkok by air legally as tourists (and then overstayed their visas), while some travelled on fraudulently obtained visas that had been issued in Colombo.
Some of the passengers on board the MV Sun Sea later testified that the persons organising this venture told them that they were not required to carry any valid travel or identity documents if they came to Canada by boat to make refugee claims.
The international cooperation between Australia, Canada, the Philippines and Thailand relates to the interception of the MV Sun Sea and the monitoring of its movement from the Gulf of Thailand to Canada between June and August 2010.
In April or May 2012 Canadian authorities sought the extradition of Mr Thayakaran Markandu from France in relation to charges relating to migrant smuggling. It is understood that INTERPOL was involved in locating Mr Markandu, who was arrested in France in early April 2012.
Newspaper reports suggest that Thai, Australian, French, and Norwegian authorities helped in the investigation of Mr Mahendran, who was arrested at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on 25 June 2012.
The smuggled migrants were of Tamil background. It was initially thought that the Sun Sea carried about 150–200 passengers and later reports claimed the vessel carried 'as many as 500' persons. 6 of the minors on-board the vessel were unaccompanied.
In about June 2010, suggestions were made that among the smuggled migrants on board the Sun Sea were 'dozens' of 'leaders, members, and helpers' of the Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) a separatist, terrorist organisation. See the Commentary Section of this database entry for further details.
14 of the persons on board were serving as crew, some by assisting to cook, collect rain water, or look our for other vessels. Some of these smuggled migrants later had their application for refugee status refused and deportation orders issued against them, because it was found that they aided migrant smugglers and, as such, were inadmissible to Canada (see Commentary section).
Mr Jeeyanantham was arrested during a raid by the Royal Thai Police on 16 January 2011, together with seven other people believed to have been involved in the MV Sun Sea venture.
Mr Christurajah was charged and taken into custody in May 2012 as one of the organizers of the MV Sun Sea venture.
Newspaper reports allege that Mr Christurajah owned a company called Sun & Rshiya & Co that bought the MV Sun Sea for THB 5.35 million. Some newspaper reports refer to Mr Christurajah as the 'ship owner'.
As on 5 November 2012, Mr Christhurajah was still in custody, while three of the co-accused had been released on bail.
Mr Emmanuel was charged in May 2012 as one of the organiser of the MV Sun Sea venture. In November 2012, the Supreme Court of British Columbia released him on bail.
Mr Markandu is a French national who was born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka.
Mr Markandu, together with three other suspects, was first arrested by the Royal Thai Police sometime in 2009 before the MV Sun Sea left Thailand. Thai authorities suspected at that time that he was amassing supplies to prepare a migrant smuggling venture. He was fined on that occasion.
On 6 March 2012 the RCMP issued an arrest warrant for Mr Markandu. He was arrested in France on 29 March 2012 and charged in May 2012 as one of the organiser of the MV Sun Sea venture and taken into custody in France in April 2012, awaiting extradition to Canada. As on 5 November 2012, Mr Markandu was still in custody in France.
Mr Rajaratnam was charged on 6 June 2012 for his involvement in organising the MV Sun Sea venture. He was arrested in Ontario on 5 June 2012. In August 2012, the Supreme Court of British Columbia released him on bail.
Mr Mahendran was charged on 6 June 2012 for his involvement in the MV Sun Sea venture. His whereabouts were not known at that time. On 25 June 2012 the RCMP arrested him at Toronto's Pearson International Airport aboard a flight originating in Sri Lanka. He appeared before a Toronto court the following day and was remanded in custody. In August 2012, the Supreme Court of British Columbia released Mr Mahendran on bail.
Mr Mahendran was born in Sri Lanka and later migrated to and naturalised in Canada. At the time of his arrest he was living Ajax, Ontario, and was involved in a business importing clothing from South Asia to Canada. He previously owned a convenience store 'in the heart of Toronto's Tamil-Canadian neighbourhood'.
Mr Aseervatham was charged on 6 June 2012 for his involvement in the MV Sun Sea venture. His whereabouts were not known at that time. It was later revealed that Mr Aseervatham had been in Canada until he was deported to Sri Lanka in July 2011. His wife and child, however, remained in Canada.
In a newspaper interview, a Toronto-based immigration consultant who had previously represented Mr Aseervatham described him as 'the kingpin' of the MV Sun Sea venture.
The persons referred to as 'SC' worked as a cook on board the Sun Sea. He was also the brother of Mr Kunarobinson Christurajah, who bought the vessel. He claimed that he was unaware if his brother's involvement until after he joined the Sun Sea. SC did not make an advance payment to be taken from Thailand to Canada. According to a court report, he had negotiated an agreement whereby his father would pay for SC's journey after SC secured work in Canada.
SC is a Sri Lankan national who had moved to Thailand in 2008 where he was granted refugee status by UNHCR.
Following his arrival in Canada, SC claimed refugee status. The Immigration Department sought to deny because of his alleged involvement in migrant smuggling.
Supreme Court of British Columbia
B010 v Minister of Citizenship and Immigration  FC 569 (15 May 2012)
B306 v Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness  FC 1282 (9 November 2012)
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Immigration Division, ID File No B0-0108 (Vancouver, BC, 20 October 2011)
Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Immigration Division, ID File No 0003-B1-01147 (Toronto, Ont, 17 February 2012)
JP and GJ v Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness  FC 1466 (12 December 2012)
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v B072  FC 563 (10 May 2012)
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v B380  FC 344 (21 November 2012)
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v B147  FC 655 (29 May 2012)
SC v Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness  FC 491
SK v Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada  FC 78 (25 January 2013)