x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pakistani nuclear scientist Khan accused of graft

International investigators and Pakistani officials have said Khan had illegally exported some 200 uranium enrichment centrifuges to Iran and North Korea.

ISLAMABAD // The disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, allegedly embezzled money from the country's clandestine programme, and sought to sabotage technology acquisition deals for personal financial interest, a former chief diplomat said.

"He siphoned off a lot of money from every deal," said Akram Zaki, the secretary general to Pakistan's ministry of foreign affairs from 1992 to 1993, and a former senator.

"And the deals in which he didn't get his finger, he tried to scuttle … even if they were national-interest [projects]."

His comments, in a recent interview with The National, were made before a Washington Post report on Thursday saying Mr Khan had leaked 1998 documents purporting to show Pakistani generals accepted more than $3.5 million (Dh12.9m) in bribes to allow the export of nuclear weapons technology to North Korea.

Mr Khan, the founding father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, was arrested in December 2003 after a shipment of nuclear weapons-making equipment, bound for Libya, was seized off the coast of Egypt. He was pardoned after making a televised apology to Pakistanis, but kept under house arrest until 2009.

International investigators and Pakistani officials have said Mr Khan had illegally exported some 200 uranium enrichment centrifuges to Iran and North Korea.

The Washington Post said Mr Khan's purpose in leaking the documents to an American security expert, Simon Henderson, was apparently to prove that he had acted with the sanction of the Pakistani military, and was not a rogue operator, as Pakistan has contended.

The two named generals told Reuters the leaked documents were fakes.

The US State Department said on Thursday that the leaked documents contained "nothing new", while the Pakistani foreign ministry dismissed the newspaper report as "totally baseless and preposterous".

Mr Zaki who, first as ambassador to Beijing and then as secretary general to the ministry of foreign affairs, led negotiations with China for nuclear technology transfers, alleged Mr Khan had personally sought to scuttle two crucial deals. "There was a deal that was negotiated by a delegation and [Khan] had nothing to do with - signed, sealed and delivered. He went there and asked for commission on that deal, and the Chinese refused. Then he tried to pressurise the government to cancel the deal, and (convince it) that it was no good," he said.

Alarmed by the revelation, Pakistan's government had to scramble to revive the deal, Mr Zaki said.

"We told them we wanted to complete the deal by a specified date, and whatever has to be done, has to be done by then," he said.

The foreign minister from 2002 to 2007, Khurshid Kasuri, said: "Pakistan has paid a big price" for Mr Khan's illegal proliferation activities. "Most of my time as minister was spent explaining that he did not have the blessings of the government," said Mr Kasuri, in an interview.

He said Pakistan had responded to international outrage at Mr Khan's activities by creating a command-and-control structure that had since prevented any further nuclear weapons proliferation.

"We took a lot of precautions after that. By the time I left office, it was generally understood by the major nuclear powers that Pakistan was doing all that was needed to be done to secure its weapons."