Sri Lankan Tahir: Man behind mushroom cloud
As the local Police begin their own investigations to trace the background of a Sri Lankan who allegedly acted as a middleman for two Pakistani senior nuclear scientists in transferring nuclear technology to Iran and Libya, more information about the shadowy Lankan businessman is pouring in.

The Sri Lankan identified as B.S.A. Tahir, 44, has been traced to be a person born in South India, but had migrated to Sri Lanka when he was around five years and had reported to be living in the Kandy area.

Mr. Tahir is said to be one of the middlemen who helped Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, considered the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, and scientist Mohamed Farooq, in selling uranium enriching equipment such as centrifuges in the blackmarkets in Dubai and else where after getting them manufactured in a Malaysian-based company.

The global adventure of Bukhary Seyed Abu Tahir, a Sri Lankan passport holder, began when he was 20 and 24 years later, he is internationally spoken about with US President George W. Bush himself identifying him as the man in the centre of a global nuclear blackmarket.

Identifying Mr. Tahir as Dr. Khan's deputy, Mr. Bush charged that the Sri Lankan used his Dubai-based computer company as front for nuclear proliferation activities of Dr. Khan's network. "Tahir was also its shipping agent, using his computer firm as cover for the movement of centrifuge parts to various clients," President Bush said.

With an international probe spreading into several European and Asian capitals, the Sri Lankan police are trying to collect more details about the family background and business deals of Mr. Tahir who is now under investigation in Malaysia.

Mr. Tahir, who is a close friend of Kamaluddin Abdullah, the son of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, has not been detained, but is said to be co-operating with investigators.

Officials of the Sri Lanka's High Commission in Malaysia said the investigators had so far not contacted the mission. Mr. Tahir, living in an upper-middle -class suburb of Kuala Lumpur, has a financial interest in a fine- chocolates franchise in a shopping mall which was opened few years ago by the wife of a top Malaysian politician.

According to New York Times, investigators say Mr. Tahir put together a deal two years ago for a Malaysian company, Scomi Precision Engineering, to make nuclear-centrifuge parts for Libya, apparently without telling the company where the parts were going, according to company officials and corporate documents. The deal was exposed last October when a ship destined for Libya, the BBC China, was seized in the Mediterranean.

Scomi Precision's parent, the Scomi Group, is principally owned by Kaspadu, the holding company linked to Mr. Tahir, according to corporate documents on file with a government regulatory agency in Malaysia. Investigators say Mr. Tahir, who came to Malaysia in the mid-90s by way of Dubai, may have been sent by Mr. Khan to secretly procure nuclear parts.

They also suspect this was not the first time or country in which Mr. Tahir carried out an operation to acquire nuclear materiel, one senior investigator said, adding that in Malaysia, Mr. Tahir had "replicated" earlier operations - though the details of those are still unknown.

Investigators have discovered that Mr. Tahir apparently travelled widely to carry out his nuclear-technology business. On one occasion, they say, he went to Casablanca, Morocco, to negotiate with Libyans for the purchase of the centrifuge parts, which are important in making fuel for bombs. On a trip to Switzerland, they say, he met with an engineer who came to Kuala Lumpur to supervise production of the parts.

Mr. Tahir also made trips to Germany and Turkey to meet with suppliers, the investigators said. A Malaysian official said Mr. Tahir's network included two father-and-son teams, one British and one Swiss.

In recent weeks, it appears Mr. Tahir has taken steps to cover up his past. His wife sold her shares in Kaspadu, some of them to the Malaysian prime minister's son, Kamaluddin Abdullah. In addition, a Dubai computer company that Western investigators say Mr. Tahir was using as a front has removed evidence of his involvement from its Web site.

Mr. Tahir is said to have established links with Dr. Khan's network when he went to New Delhi to study. It was during this time one of his uncles met Dr. Khan, according to investigators. The uncle had a business that supplied parts to Dr. Khan's operation.

In 2001, Mr. Tahir negotiated a contract with Scomi for the manufacture of high-precision components, Scomi officials have said. At the time, he was on the board of Kaspadu, according to corporate documents. Mr. Tahir said the parts were being made for Gulf Technical Industries, a Dubai company owned by a British engineer, Peter Griffin, a longtime supplier to Dr. Khan during the time he was building Pakistan's nuclear capacity.

Three million dollars in two brief cases
Kuala Lumpur, Saturday -Malaysian police said on Friday that Mr. Tahir had claimed that Dr. Khan sold nuclear centrifuge parts to Iran in the 1990s. Mr. Tahir told police that Dr. Khan asked him to send centrifuges to Iran in 1994 or 1995, according to an official report which will be handed to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Two containers of used centrifuge units -- which can be used for enriching uranium for nuclear weapons -- were shipped from Pakistan to Iran via Dubai and were paid for with about three million dollars in cash, Mr. Tahir said.

"The cash was brought in two briefcases and kept in an apartment that was used as a guesthouse by the Pakistani nuclear arms expert (Khan) each time he visited Dubai," according to the report. Mr. Tahir also said Dr. Khan told him that a "certain amount of UF6 (enriched uranium) was sent by air from Pakistan to Libya" around 2001.

Dr. Khan, a disgraced one-time national hero credited with making Pakistan a nuclear power, confessed this month to leaking nuclear secrets. He was later pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf.

Malaysia declined to say today what will happen to the man police say confessed to a web of dealings with Pakistani atomic scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, including selling nuclear centrifuges to Iran. Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar brushed off questions today about what was next for 44-year-old Tahir, labelled by Washington as Dr. Khan's deputy and money launderer.

Though the businessman remains free in the country, a Malaysian intelligence source said on Friday he had left his house but remained in the capital Kuala Lumpur. Syed Hamid told reporters police would handle any U.S. government inquiries on Mr. Tahir. - AFP/Reuters

India Today expose
The India Today in its today's issue has revealed these details about Mr. Tahir's activities: Pakistan investigators believe Khan operated through a host of frontmen and middlemen in several countries to ship nuclear equipment and components to these countries.

Among them is alleged to be a Sri Lankan national Syed Abu Taheer Bukhari residing in Dubai, whose father was a close friend of Khan. In a bilarlous twist, Taheer complained to Khan of being blackmailed by a Sri Lankan intelligence official called Harry Jayawardene and coughed up $1.7 million. Khan was reportedly enraged when he heard this. Such was Khan's pomposity that, "INDIA TODAY" learns, that on March 11, 2003, he wrote a four page letter to Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe complimenting him on his peace efforts and then outlining the entire blackmail episode and requesting him to take action against the official.

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