- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Police are investigating whether a Malaysian company controlled by the prime minister’s son supplied components destined for Libya’s nuclear weapons programs.

National police Chief Mohamed Bakri Omar said yesterday that Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn. Bhd., or Scope, a subsidiary of Scomi Group Bhd., produced centrifuge components that were intercepted on their way to Libya in October.

The announcement came amid revelations of a complex international black market in nuclear parts and designs that has been linked to Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who gave the Islamic world its first nuclear bomb.

Mr. Khan visited Malaysia several times in recent years, including to attend the wedding of the reputed middleman in the deal, a Malaysian official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium for a variety of purposes, including weapons production. They also are used in many other industries for nonnuclear purposes.

The CIA and Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency informed Malaysia in November of a deal involving Scope and a Dubai-based businessman who acted as a go-between “in supplying certain centrifuge components from Malaysia for Libya’s uranium enrichment program,” the national police chief said in a statement.

Wooden boxes with centrifuge parts and bearing Scope’s name were found in five containers seized in October from a ship in Italy headed for Libya, he said.

Scomi is a midsized company that supplies specialized tools for the oil and gas, automotive and general components industries.

Kamaluddin Abdullah, 35, the only son of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, is the company’s largest shareholder, although he has no management role. He could not be reached yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Najib Razak promised the investigation “will be very thorough and very transparent.”

Chief Mohamed Bakri said the foreign intelligence services identified the middleman as Sri Lankan B.S.A. Tahir, who was cooperating in the investigation but was not in custody. Scope, too, was cooperating fully, he said.

In a separate statement, Scomi said Mr. Tahir arranged for it to be contracted to make “14 semi-finished components” for a Dubai-based company, Gulf Technical Industries, in a deal worth $3.4 million.

The company said Gulf Technical never identified its intended use of the components.

A Scomi spokeswoman said yesterday that the group isn’t obliged to inform the government of the export of such components beyond routine customs procedures.

Malaysia, a fast-developing, mostly Muslim country in Southeast Asia, is a signatory to international nuclear-weapons nonproliferation treaties.

Chief Mohamed Bakri said the police investigation so far indicated that “no company in Malaysia is capable of producing a complete centrifuge unit because it requires high technology and extensive expertise in the field of nuclear weapons.”

The parts seized in the Libya shipment also could be used in petrochemical, water treatment and health applications such as molecular biology for protein separation, he said.

In Pakistan, government and intelligence officials indicated that Malaysia’s involvement may be wider than the single shipment addressed in the national police chief’s statement. Mr. Khan, who founded Pakistan’s nuclear program in the 1970s, occasionally ordered “disused equipment” to be sent to Malaysia for reconditioning before it was shipped to Iran, Libya and North Korea, Pakistani officials told AP on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Najib, the defense minister, told AP yesterday that Malaysia has no ambitions to be a nuclear power: “Absolutely not.”

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