Tue, Jun 24, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Malaysia frees Sri Lankan accused of nuclear links

AP , KUALA LUMPUR

A Sri Lankan businessman jailed four years ago for allegedly supplying nuclear weapon components to Libya has been freed and is no longer a threat to national security, a Malaysian Cabinet minister said yesterday.

The case of Buhary Seyed Abu Tahir drew additional attention because he was alleged to have deceived a company partly owned by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s son to procure the components.

Malaysian Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Tahir would remain under police watch, and indicated that he would not be allowed to leave Malaysia “for the time being.”

The Star daily reported yesterday that Tahir, who is a Malaysian permanent resident, was released June 6. He was taken into custody in May 2004 under the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Confirming the report, Syed Hamid said: “He is not a [security] threat. The recommendation is for him to be released, but he is a subject for us to watch over.”

“I think we have investigated what we need to investigate,” he said, adding that foreign governments and security agencies also conducted their probes.

“All over the world people who have been involved in this [investigation] have taken necessary action at the local level, so there is no necessity to hold him,” he said, without elaborating.

He did not say if this meant that the investigations found Tahir innocent.

Tahir’s alleged activity came to light when a ship owned by a German company was examined at the port of Taranto in Italy on Oct. 4, 2003. Authorities found five Libya-bound containers believed to contain components related to the Libyan uranium enrichment program.

The 25,000 centrifuge parts were in wooden boxes with the logo of Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn Bhd, or SCOPE, a subsidiary of Scomi Group in which Prime Minister Abdullah’s son Kamaluddin had a stake.

The discovery led to the uncovering of a secret network led by Pakistan’s top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Malaysian investigations, however, cleared SCOPE, which was subsequently closed.

Police said at the time that Tahir had in 2001 offered a contract to SCOPE for supplying the semi-finished products after falsely assuring them it was a legitimate deal and not related to nuclear technology.

SCOPE claimed it had shipped 14 semi-finished components to Dubai-based Gulf Technical Industries (GTI) in four consignments from December 2002. The end-use of these components were never disclosed by GTI, it said.

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