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Profile: Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir
Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir was a participant or observer in the following events:
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan sells uranium enrichment equipment to Iran for $3 million in cash. Sri Lankan businessman Bukhary Syed Abu Tahir, Khan’s key associate, arranges for two containers containing used centrifuge units to be delivered from Pakistan to Iran via an Iranian-owned merchant ship. [BBC, 2/12/2004; Associated Press, 2/20/2004; Washington Times, 9/9/2004]
Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, a key associate of Pakistani nuclear proliferator A. Q. Khan, calls British businessman Peter Griffin to inquire about purchasing various machines for a workshop to be set up in Dubai. Griffin will later say he asks Tahir, “Is it nuclear?” but Tahir replies it is not. Tahir apparently tells Griffin the machines are for the Libyan National Oil Company, which wants to replace burnt-out machinery—a workshop in Dubai could manufacture spare parts without being troubled by sanctions. Griffin will say, “I saw no problem with that and sent over a container-load of catalogs, all the usual stuff for a standard machine shop.” Nothing will happen with the deal, which will turn out to be related to Libya’s nuclear program, until 1997 (see August 1997). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 366]
An audit of SMB Distribution, a Dubai-based company owned by Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, finds a series problems in its accounts. The audit is conducted by Peter Griffin, like Tahir an associate of A. Q. Khan’s, at Tahir’s request. Based on an interview of Griffin, authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that Griffin discovers “major discrepancies between what was being bought and sold” by the company. This will lead Griffin to be suspicious of SMB Distribution, but he will continue to do business with Tahir (see, for example, July 2000). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 368]
Peter Griffin, a British businessman who has been working with the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network for two decades (see Summer 1976), sets up a company called Gulf Technical Industries (GTI) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The company’s establishment is a result of an order one of Khan’s other associates, Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, has told Griffin he will place with him. Tahir first mentioned the order, said to be worth $10 million, in 1994 (see May 1994), but nothing had come of it then. Tahir now says that the deal, which he claims is for a machine shop to produce spare parts for the Libyan National Oil Company, is back on. As a result of Tahir’s inquiry, Griffin moves back to Dubai with his wife Anna and starts the company up. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 366]
A five-day wedding celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, provides an opportunity for key players in A. Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling ring to get together and discuss moving some of their operations from Dubai to Southeast Asia and Africa. The groom is Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, a key facilitator for Khan who is to marry a woman named Nazimah, the daughter of his aunt and a Malaysian diplomat. Other key players who attend the meeting include European figures in the network Henk Slebos and Peter Griffin, Griffin’s wife Anna, Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik, a Pakistani military official close to Khan, Farooq Hashmi and Mohammad Farooq, other Pakistani associates of Khan, and Dr. Riaz Chowhan, a general and Khan’s physician. Abdul Siddiqui, father of a London-based Khan associate, is also in attendance, as are 300 employees from a Dubai-based Khan front company called SMB Computers and 100 scientists from Khan Research Laboratories in Pakistan. Griffin will say that Khan keeps a low profile at the wedding, commenting, “He made no mention of the recent nuclear tests in Pakistan and kept in the background throughout the celebration.” Khan and his associates spend some time planning to relocate some of their operations, as their hub in Dubai is now well known to intelligence services (see Early 1998). Some elements are to be moved to Southeast Asia and some to Africa, and a new client list is also discussed. Intelligence agents working for Britain and the US also attend the wedding and learn of what Khan is planning. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 282-283]
Entity Tags: SMB Computers, Riaz Chowhan, Peter Griffin, Kahuta Research Laboratories, Henk Slebos, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Abdul Siddiqui, Anna Griffin, Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, Farooq Hashmi, Mohammad Farooq
Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network
A shipment of special aluminum for the A. Q. Khan network is seized in London by British customs. The shipment was arranged by Abu Bakr Siddiqui, a British-based supplier for the Khan network. Siddiqui’s company, Orland Europe Ltd., received the order in November 1998 from a Dubai-based facilitator for Khan’s network named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, but it had originated with Mohammad Farooq, director of foreign procurement at Khan Research Laboratories.
Siddiqui Warned - Customs learned of the order thanks to a tipoff from the British intelligence agency MI6. Customs agent Maxine Crook and a colleague called on Siddiqui in January 1999 to inform him that the export of some metals required a license, and, if there was any doubt, it was best to contact the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to check if one was required for a specific transaction. Crook also told Siddiqui that he should contact the DTI if he again did business with three companies with which he had previously traded, and that Dubai was a well-known “diversionary point” for goods going to “countries of concern” related to the smuggling of components for nuclear programs. Finally, Crook told Siddiqui he should consult the DTI about the current order for the aluminum. After the visit, Crook sent Siddiqui a letter summarizing the main points of the visit, and Siddiqui acknowledged the letter.
Seizure - Siddiqui went ahead with the order without asking for a license anyway, and customs officials seize it on the docks in London. A search of his home and office yields records of millions of dollars’ worth of equipment that has been shipped to Khan over the last decade, a brochure describing the uranium enrichment process, a photo of Siddiqui and Khan together, and a magazine with an article on Khan in which he said he wanted to “buy whatever we can from the international market” to support Pakistan’s nuclear program. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 178-180]
Following a raid on Abu Bakr Siddiqui, a supplier for A. Q. Khan’s nuclear proliferation ring (see May 7, 1999), British customs examines the evidence it has seized and realizes that the investigation is not a simple case of Siddiqui exporting specialized metals without a license, but that they have opened a much larger can of worms. The investigation, known as Operation Akin, is led by Atif Amin, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent assigned to a special counterproliferation team, and they question Siddiqui twice, learning a lot more about the Khan network in the process. Customs also arranges that if a contact of Siddiqui, the Dubai-based businessman Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, enters Britain, he will be arrested. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 180-181]
Shortly before British customs agent Atif Amin is to leave for Dubai to pursue an investigation into the A. Q. Khan nuclear smuggling ring (see After May 10, 1999), he is warned off a particular company by the British intelligence agency MI6. According to authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento, the message comes through “liaison channels” and informs Amin that he should “steer clear” of a company called Desert Electrical Equipment Factory, even if the company comes up in his investigation. British customs are not investigating the company in connection with Khan’s operations, although its owner is reportedly a partner of Khan associate Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir in another company called SMB Computers. Libyan officials will later tell investigators that at this time Desert Electrical’s facilities are being used to manufacture centrifuge components and train Libyan scientists. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 181-182] The MI6 station chief in Dubai will warn Amin off another company involved in the smuggling ring (see March 2000).
During the course of an investigation into A. Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling ring, British customs agent Atif Amin and Dubai policeman Alwari Essam visit a plastic bag manufacturer called Green Crest Industries (M.E.) Ltd. in Dubai. According to Amin, the visit is made because an entry in a suspect’s phone book listed a Dubai phone number for Khan that is registered to Green Crest. In addition, apartments and post office boxes rented for Khan by an associate named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir appear to be linked to Green Crest. However, the manager and several other employees all deny any knowledge of Khan. At that point, another employee wanders past and says in Punjabi: “Sure we do. He has a flat and he comes here all the time.” Amin, who speaks Punjabi, understands the remark, as well as the manager’s sharp reply. The atmosphere turns hostile and the two investigators leave. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later talk to the company’s owner, Shaik Muhammad Farooq, who has a long history of dealings with Khan (see Late 1970s-1980s). Farooq will say that Green Crest had “absolutely no relationship” with Tahir, except that they had once swapped apartments in a Dubai building. However, when Farooq is asked later whether Khan ever visited Green Crest, he will curiously contradict himself as he replies: “He never visited our factories. He never visited our office. He never visited. Except sometimes he is there and he is inviting a lot of people including other businessman for dinner or so otherwise no. Absolutely baseless… I’m 100 percent sure he never visited us.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 184-5]
Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, a Malaysia-based associate of A. Q. Khan, pays $2 million into the account of Gulf Technical Industries (GTI), a Dubai-based company run by another of Khan’s associates named Peter Griffin. According to Griffin, Tahir told him the money was to pay for a workshop to manufacture spare parts for the Libyan oil industry (see August 1997), although in reality it is to pay for components for Libya’s nuclear weapons program. The workshop is understandably not built and Tahir regularly calls Griffin to ask him to transfer money to different accounts. Griffin will comment: “He’d say, ‘I promised to send some money, can you send it for me to [Gotthard] Lerch, to Gunes [Cire, both associates of Khan], to Nauman Shah [Khan’s son-in-law]?’” Griffin apparently does not ask any questions about the payments, of which there are at least nine. He will recall: “I did point out to Tahir at one stage that this money was coming out of the Libyan National Oil Company cash. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll pay you back,’ and he did. The only problem, as I realized to my cost later, was I had no paperwork for these deals. Nothing to protect myself with.” Griffin is suspicious, but having known Tahir for years, not unduly so: “I was asked later if it had not appeared unusual to use money set aside for one thing to pay off another, without making any official receipts. But I said: ‘Tahir was a good friend. It was like a mate asking to borrow a fiver.’ But since there was nothing in writing I could not prove that Tahir had lied to me. I was disappointed. I’d known Tahir since he was a kid.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 366-367]
Two lathes ordered by Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, an associate of A. Q. Khan, are delivered to Dubai from Spain. The delivery is organized by another associate of Khan’s, Peter Griffin, who set up a company used by Khan’s network in Dubai in 1997 (see August 1997). “Again, he [Tahir] said they [the lathes] were for the Libyan National Oil Company,” Griffin will say. “They were 15.6 tons each, enormous machines as big as my living room, each costing $350,000. I delivered them to Dubai in July or August 2000. Tahir asked if I could rent some factory space and set them up so his clients could see them running.” However, the clients do not show up and Tahir calls a month later to say that the clients will take the lathes away. When the Khan network begins to unravel in early 2004, Griffin will learn that Tahir has told Malaysian authorities that the lathes were for the Libyan nuclear weapons program. Griffin will then investigate what happened to the lathes and learn from customs authorities in Dubai that Tahir had sent at least one of them to South Africa in November 2000, using a forged invoice from Gulf Technical Industries (GTI), a company owned by Griffin. Griffin will claim not to have known anything about the shipment to South Africa, but the freight is allegedly paid in Dubai by GTI. The delivery address is Tradefin Engineering, a metalworking company based in Vanderbijlpark, a town close to Johannesburg. Documents indicate the lathe remains in South Africa for 13 months, until it is shipped back to Dubai, apparently en route to Malaysia. Griffin will comment: “It was possible that it had been adapted while away in South Africa, modified to be able to perform very fine definition work, something it couldn’t do when it left my warehouse.” The lathe is dispatched to Malaysia in December 2001, apparently on the orders of a Mr. Hussain of GTI. However, Griffin will say that he does not employ anyone of that name and that the contact number Mr. Hussain gave was for SMB Distribution, a company owned by Tahir. Based on these events, authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will conclude that Tahir had attempted to frame Griffin for the deal. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 367]
Abu Bakr Siddiqui, a procurement agent for A. Q. Khan’s nuclear smuggling ring, is convicted in Britain on three counts of violating British export regulations. He had been shipping materials and technology to be used to build nuclear weapons, but his activities were uncovered by British customs (see May 7, 1999). The prosecution had argued that Siddiqui knew well that what he exported was destined for Pakistan’s nuclear program, and linked him to Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, a Dubai-based middleman in the network. Many of the details of Khan’s operations are revealed in court, but, due to obstruction by authorities in Dubai, not all of them can be submitted as evidence. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 194] Siddiqui will be given an extremely lenient sentence (see October 8, 2001).
A set of aluminum tubes arrives at the docks in Dubai addressed to a company called Gulf Technical Industries (GTI), which is owned by Peter Griffin, a long-time A. Q. Khan associate. Griffin will later recall that he gets a call from his office manager: “He said he’d been advised by a shipping company there was a consignment of aluminum tubes that had just arrived at Dubai docks for GTI but he could not find any record of us having ordered them.” Griffin realizes immediately that the aluminum tubes may well be for use in a nuclear weapons program by the Khan network. He will comment, “I sensed right away it was [Bukhary Sayed Abu] Tahir,” an associate of both Khan and Griffin (see August 1997). Griffin calls Tahir, who admits the tubes are really for him, but that he has used the name of Griffin’s company for the delivery. Although Griffin and Tahir have an ongoing business relationship, Griffin is angry at being used, and says: “This is the end of it. If you do anything like this again I’ll take you to court in Dubai. Do you hear?” It appears that the tubes are for Libya’s illicit nuclear weapons program, and that, in Griffin’s words, he is being set up “as the fall guy” if anything should go wrong. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 366-367]
The A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation ring sets up a new company in Malaysia to replace a plant in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, that was shut down. The Dubai plant, the Desert Electrical Equipment Factory, was closed down by the network the previous year due to a British customs investigation into the smuggling ring’s operations in Dubai (see Late March 2000). Under a contract with Khan associate Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, the new company in Malaysia manufactures centrifuge components for the Libyan nuclear program. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 194-195]
Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir, an associate of A. Q. Khan, sends an emissary to see one of his business partners, Peter Griffin, to tell him to destroy all records of his dealings with Tahir. Griffin and Tahir have been assisting Khan’s activities for some time, but their most recent transactions concerned equipment for Libya’s outlaw nuclear program (see August 1997). Griffin will later say: “A Dubai sponsor who had helped us start up a company arrived on my doorstep in France in November or December 2003. He just turned up out of the blue. He had an important message from Tahir in Kuala Lumpur. He wanted me to destroy all records of our business together. I rang Tahir and asked what was going on. He said, ‘I can’t say, I can’t talk to you. Just destroy everything.’ I said, ‘No, these documents are my only insurance.’” At this time Tahir is under investigation by Malaysian authorities for nuclear proliferation activities in their country (see December 2001), and this is apparently an attempt to get Griffin to destroy documents showing he did not know the equipment he helped Tahir procure was for Libya’s nuclear program. If Griffin destroyed the documents, Tahir would be able to place a greater part of the blame on him. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 365-366]
A. Q: Khan (right) and Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 (left). [Source: CBC]A Sri Lankan named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir is accused by President Bush of being the chief financial officer for an international nuclear black market linked to A. Q. Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. Tahir sat on the board of Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad, which is owned by the Malaysian prime minister’s son, Kamaluddin Abdullah. The Associated Press claims that a search of publicly accessible files revealed the paper trail that outlines links between Abdullah and Abu Tahir. The paperwork revealed that they were both executives at Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad when Tahir made a deal for Scomi Precision Engineering to build components that Western intelligence sources claim were for use in Libya’s nuclear program. The Scomi Group fulfilled a $3.5 million manufacturing contract for machine parts negotiated by Tahir. Scomi officials say they did not know what the parts were for, while nonproliferation authorities claim they were for 14 centrifuges. US officials insist the components, tubes made up of thousands of small pieces, could only be used in a uranium enrichment program. A Scomi spokeswoman insisted that the company was told the parts were for the oil and gas industry. After the revelation, Abdullah severs ties to Tahir. Malaysian police say neither Tahir or Scomi have committed any crime and no arrests have been made, which the official government report backed up. President Bush has accused Tahir of using a Dubai based company called Gulf Technical Industries as a front for Khan’s network. [Malaysia, 2/21/2004; Time, 2/16/2005; CNN, 2/18/2005]
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