A Malaysian inquiry revealed that the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program sold uranium enrichment equipment to Iran for $3 million and signed lucrative contracts for Libya, part of a thriving black market in nuclear arms, according to a police report released Friday.
The report based on interviews with one of the operation’s purported middlemen, Bukhary Syed Abu Tahir reveals details about alleged deals between Pakistan, Iran and Libya. It lays out the extent of the black market, which appears to have included a company owned by the son of Malaysia’s prime minister, as well as British and Swiss middlemen.
Tahir, a 44-year-old Sri Lankan, says he was one of several people who helped Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, sell nuclear technology to willing bidders. Khan confessed this month to leaking nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Malaysia’s investigation into Tahir began after a company controlled by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s son was said to have unwittingly supplied the network.
Police said the 12-page report on the three-month investigation will be given to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nonproliferation watchdog. The Malaysians urged the agency to investigate European individuals and firms.
On Saturday, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak claimed the investigation showed Malaysia didn’t have any knowing role in the network. “We have said has been totally vindicated,” he told reporters.
President Bush singled out Tahir and Malaysia in a speech last week that urged tougher international regulations.
Among details supplied by Tahir and laid out in the report are deals between Khan’s operatives to sell nuclear equipment to Iran for $3 million in cash and to supply a uranium compound used in the enrichment process to Libya.
According to Tahir’s account, Libya approached Khan in 1997 for help building a uranium enrichment program. Negotiations began in Istanbul, Turkey, between the Pakistani scientist and a Libyan identified as Mohamad Matuq Mohamad.
Around 2001, Khan told Tahir that “a certain amount” of uranium used in the enrichment process was flown from Pakistan to Libya, the report said. Subsequently, a number of centrifuge units were flown from Pakistan to Libya.
What Khan’s network couldn’t get for Libya directly, it helped the country build, sending machines and technicians to set up centrifuge-making operations and calling it “Project Machine Shop 1001,” according to Tahir’s account.
Centrifuges are sophisticated machines that can be used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons or nuclear power.
Late last year, Libya acknowledged trying to develop weapons of mass destruction and pledged to scrap them. Unlike Libya, Iran denies ever having had such ambitions.
Tahir told police he was recruited to Khan’s network in 1994. That year, on Khan’s instructions, Tahir arranged for two containers of used centrifuge units from Pakistan to be sent to Iran aboard an Iranian-owned merchant ship, the report says.
An unidentified Iranian paid for the units with about $3 million worth of dirhams, the United Arab Emirates currency.
“The cash was brought in two briefcases and kept in an apartment that was used as a guesthouse by the Pakistani nuclear arms expert each time he visited Dubai,” the report said.
One operative named as working for Khan is Peter Griffin, a Briton whom Tahir alleged designed the Libyan workshop and sent eight Libyan technicians to Spain to learn how to use lathes for centrifuge parts.
According to the report, two others were Freidrich Tinner, a Swiss engineer whom Khan met in the 1980s, and his son, Urs Tinner, 39, who allegedly worked with Tahir in getting Malaysian company Scomi Precision Engineering, or SCOPE, to produce centrifuge parts.
SCOPE engineered more than 25,000 individual parts for a Dubai-based company owned by Griffin, Gulf Technical Industries, under a contract negotiated by Tahir, and shipped them between December 2002 and August 2003.
Swiss authorities have launched an investigation into Urs Tinner’s alleged role, officials there said Friday. The Tinner family sent The Associated Press a statement saying Urs Tinner worked for SCOPE in Kuala Lumpur as a technical consultant for the last three years.
It said he controlled the manufacture of machinery parts, but that “information about the customer or the purpose of the goods was unavailable to him during the whole period.”
The parts, in boxes marked with SCOPE’s name, were seized in the Mediterranean last October en route from Dubai to Libya.
The family statement said Urs Tinner stopped working for SCOPE last October because he had not been paid his consultancy fees for several months.
“Other family members were not involved in this process at any time,” the statement said.
SCOPE is a subsidiary of Scomi Group, an oil-and-gas firm whose biggest stakeholder is Kaspadu, an investment company owned by the Malaysian prime minister’s son, Kamaluddin Abdullah.
Tahir joined Kaspadu as a director in December 2000, about the same time that Scomi established SCOPE and built its factory to make the parts ordered by Gulf Technical Industries, according to public documents. Tahir left the board in early 2003.
Scomi and its staff thought the parts were to be used in the oil and gas industry in Dubai, the report said. Only Tahir and Tinner, whom he brought in to oversee the work, knew the true purpose and ultimate destination.
A Malaysian official, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity Friday, said there are no immediate plans to detain Tahir because investigators had found no “compelling evidence” that he broke Malaysian or other laws.
But Tahir is under close surveillance, the official said.