|Thursday, 5 February 2004|
Lankan in Libyan nuclear probe
KUALA LUMPUR, Wednesday (Reuters)
A Sri Lankan businessman being investigated in Malaysia over the sale of nuclear parts to Libya was supplied with some components by a firm controlled by the son of Malaysia's new premier, the company said on Wednesday.
Police confirmed they were investigating a Sri Lankan businessman called B.S.A. Tahir, who is allegedly a Dubai-based middleman in the supply of centrifuge parts for uranium enrichment.
A police statement said the CIA and MI6, the U.S. and British intelligence services, tipped off Malaysian authorities in early November that centrifuge parts made in Malaysia had been found a month earlier aboard a ship bound for Libya.
"The components were said to have been placed in wooden boxes labelled Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn Bhd (SCOPE). SCOPE is a subsidiary of Scomi Group Bhd," the police statement said.
The components found could also be used in petrochemical processes, water treatment and molecular-biology, police also said.
Scomi Group Bhd SCOI.KL, listed in May last year, is controlled by Kamaluddin Abdullah,
the prime minister's son, and two other investors. The revelation in Kuala Lumpur was the latest twist in one of the biggest nuclear proliferation scandals in history, with Pakistan's top nuclear scientist accused of leaking weapons secrets and equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea.
The news in Malaysia could be embarrassing for Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi but a high level government source noted a company wittingly involved in clandestine nuclear trade was unlikely to label any boxes with its own name.
Scomi said in a news release that SCOPE, which does specialised tooling work for third party customers in the oil and gas, automotive and general components industry, had been awarded a contract to provide tooling services to Dubai-based Gulf Technical Industries LCC (GTI).
It also confirmed Tahir had arranged the contract but said the end-use of the components was never disclosed to the firm.
"The company was recently informed by the Malaysian police that Mr. Tahir is currently the subject of an investigation by Malaysian, American and British intelligence authorities over his alleged involvement in the supply of nuclear technology to Libya," Scomi said.
The firm said it shipped a total of four consignments to GTI between December 2002 and August 2003. It said the order to supply 14 semi-finished components was worth 13 million ringgit ($3.4 million) over the two years, and amounted to just 3.5 percent of the group's turnover for the period.
Scomi has been a darling among investors, rising 864 percent since listing. On Wednesday, Scomi shares were down 2.2 percent to 13.30 ringgit.
The police statement said Tahir was cooperating with police but was not in custody. The government source said he was in Malaysia.
The government source said the parts found were not part of the rotor motor or any rotating components for a centrifuge, but were mainly for use in mounting and casing. The police said investigations so far showed no company in Malaysia is capable of producing a complete centrifuge.
Produced by Lake House