February 18, 2007Foreign Affairs

Only a rap on the knuckles for A Q Khan’s Western accomplices

Or, everyone wants to hide a red face

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

It’s curious”, writes Mark Strauss, editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, that a trafficker in nuclear technology gets less jail time than a prolific spammer”. The December 2006 edition of the Bulletin is a special on A Q Khan. In the special report, Kenley Butler, Sammy Salama and Leonard Spector ask Where is the justice?”.

No, they are not referring to the Centrifugist himself, but to his Western collaborators and accomplices.

To date, the only three individuals to be both found guilty of and imprisoned for crimes related to Khan network activities are Dutch businessman Henk Slebos and German businessmen Rainer Vollmerich and Ernst Piffl. German courts sentenced Piffl to three years and nine months in jail and gave Vollmerich a stiff sevenyear, three-month sentence. The case against Slebos was weakened—and consequently his sentence was reduced—after the court ruled that Dutch authorities had acted improperly during a search of Slebos’s offices in April 2004. Because the search warrant did not stipulate that domestic intelligence agents could accompany investigators from the Dutch Justice Ministry, the evidence collected in these searches was ruled inadmissible. Courts convicted two other individuals, Abu Siddiqui, a London businessman of Bangladeshi origin, and Zoran Filipovic, a Slebos employee, but they did not serve jail time.

Fourteen individuals in Germany, Japan, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey are known to be under investigation for their roles in Khan network activities. Nine of the fourteen are currently under arrest. [Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Nov/Dec 06]So while the Centrifugist remains the centre of (diminishing) worldwide public attention, the rest of network get away. They get to return to their lakeside villas after the briefest sojourns under government hospitality. Recent reports suggest that Pakistan might have had access to Urenco’s centrifuge designs long after A Q Khan’s activities were noticed by Western authorities. Western governments, it turns out, are as keen to put that embarassing episode behind them as Gen Musharraf is.

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