Monday, 23 June 2008

ISA Inmate Released - BSA Tahir

Yesterday one ISA inmate was released from Kamunting.

Unlike most of the other inmates, this guy is no political activist. He was wanted by the US government for being part of a nuclear arms deal with Iran.

I dug up some old bits of info from The Washington Post about this Buhary Syed Abu Tahir and those involved with him.

And when I speak of involvement, I speak of Scomi. Read on.

Tahir, a product of many worlds, was the ideal middleman. Born in India, he moved to Sri Lanka as a child and then to Dubai when his family opened a company, SMB Group, in that Persian Gulf emirate. Today, the firm, which he and his brother own, is involved in computers and information technology.

Tahir, however, had turned his attention to Malaysia, marrying the daughter of a former Malaysian diplomat in a society wedding in 1998 and gaining permanent residency there.

He also saw business opportunities. Though he had planned in 2001 to manufacture centrifuge components in Turkey with a Turkish associate, police said, Tahir changed his mind and suggested that the parts be produced by a politically connected Malaysian company, Scomi Precision Engineering.

Does that name ring any bells in your mind?

That company, set up in December 2001, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Scomi Group Berhad, which is involved primarily in the oil and gas business. Its two main shareholders are Kamaluddin Abdullah, the son of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and Kamaluddin's former classmate, Shah Hakim Zain. The pair are controlling shareholders in two investment companies that hold the majority of stock in Scomi Group.

Another major shareholder in one of the investment companies until earlier this year was Tahir's wife, Nazimah Syed Majid. After Malaysian authorities began investigating Scomi's involvement with Khan's nuclear network, company officials asked her to sell her shares to Kamaluddin and his business partner, a Scomi spokeswoman said.

Strange bedfellows, you say? Purely coincidence?

In April 2002, Tahir recommended that the company bring in a 39-year-old Swiss consultant, Urs Friedrich Tinner, to help set up a new plant for Scomi Precision Engineering in the Shah Alam industrial area near Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital. Tinner's father, Friedrich Tinner, was a mechanical engineer who had done business with Khan since the 1980s and had helped supply centrifuge components for Libya, the report said.

Through his father, brother and other business contacts, Urs Tinner imported highly specialized machines to produce the components called for in the business plan Tahir had reportedly offered Scomi.

On the shop floor, Tinner was secretive, taking back his component drawings once a part was finished and erasing technical drawings in factory computers, the report said, telling workers he was seeking "to safeguard trade secrets." When Tinner left in October 2003, he took his computer's hard disk and his files.

The materials to make the components, a total of 330 tons of quality aluminum, were purchased from Bikar Metal Pte Ltd. a German firm in Singapore, the police said. The aluminum bars and tubes were not controlled material that would arouse suspicions about their intended purpose, police said.

At the factory, workers turned them into a dozen types of components for export, including flanges, clamp holders, molecular pumps and crash rings. The parts, worth $3.4 million, were shipped to Dubai in four batches between December 2002 and August 2003, according to police and company statements.

The report said that none of the firm's 30 employees knew that on Oct. 4, 2003, a German ship called the BBC China had been boarded and searched in Taranto, Italy, and that investigators had seized five containers bound for Libya that held components for centrifuge units. The containers bore Scomi's logo.

No kidding. Caught red-handed, were we? This happened only a few months after Pak Lah assumed office.

Tahir told police that the ship also carried a consignment from Gunas Jireh, a Turk who supplied "aluminum casting and dynamo" to Libya for its effort to develop its own nuclear machinery workshop, the report said.

That seizure was part of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an international effort to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and it helped break open the network.

U.S. and British intelligence brought that evidence to Malaysia's attention in November, police said.

In his speech last week, Bush noted that Khan used the Malaysia factory to produce key parts for centrifuges. Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar complained Friday that Bush had unfairly singled out Malaysia.

"Malaysia should not be dragged into the debate of being a country that is involved in the supply of components or otherwise for weapons of mass destruction, " the foreign minister "We have no capability."

Really? I can fully believe that the Malaysians were not technologically involved in processing the radioactive elements, e.g. isotope separation itself.

After all, they had the Swiss and the Libyans for that. Scomi just had to pretend that they were just providing some vague bits of engineering service and had no full knowledge of what actually was going on.

But seriously, it is ludicrous to assume that the Scomi Group had no inkling of what it was involved with. Nuclear production is no simple process. It involves dangerous radioactive chemicals which need proper handling.

I presume that Uranium was the radioactive material that was being processed judging from the method of using centrifuges to purify it.

And for centrifuges, you would need high quality component parts with high safety factors to ensure structural integrity. Scomi Precision Engineering was building just that.

The police report said that, apart from Tahir and Tinner, who served as a technical consultant to Scomi from April 2002 to October 2003, Scomi employees did not know the intended use of the components they were making.

Police investigators concluded that, "to untrained eyes, such components would not raise any concern as the components are similar to components that could be used by the 'petrol-chemical industry' and 'water treatment' and various other industries," the report said.

I find it highly suspicious that while BSA Tahir spends some quality time in Kamunting, his counterparts in high places have gone off scot-free.

How is it that this has been so conveniently pushed under the carpet? Scomi was clearly involved in the nuclear black market scandal.

So was this guy put away for 4 years to keep his mouth shut or because he was genuinely a threat to national (international, more like) security??


Letting the time pass me by said...

This is interesting....

Crankshaft said...

Hell yeah. The things you never knew.

Back when this happened, I was apolitical and only interested in getting a job.