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Context of 'Summer 1976: Misdial Leads to Long-Term Relationship between A. Q. Khan and British Businessman'

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After Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan agrees to help Pakistan obtain the technology to make a nuclear bomb (see Summer-Autumn 1974), he begins to steal secrets from a Dutch company he works for to help them. Khan is asked to help translate a top-secret report on the G2 centrifuge, a major advance in uranium enrichment technology. To this end, he is assigned to a high-security section of the company, but the strict security procedures are ignored and he has free access for 16 days to the company’s main centrifuge plant. He takes full advantage of the situation, noting down details of the various processes. Around this time, neighbors also notice that Khan is receiving late-night visits from French and Belgian cars with diplomatic license plates, presumably Pakistani contacts to whom Khan is passing the secrets. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 50-1)

Abdus Salam, a procurement agent for the A. Q. Khan nuclear network, misdials a number for US-based machine tool giant Rockwell, instead calling the British agent of its power tool division, Scimitar, in Wales. Salam wants to buy $1 million in power tools and the person on the other end of the line, sales manager Peter Griffin, is surprised by the request, but happy to ship such a large order. This chance encounter will lead to an extremely long relationship between Griffin and Khan, with Griffin supplying a very large amount of equipment for Khan’s efforts. Griffin initially travels to London to meet Salam, who had been put in touch with Khan through a mutual acquaintance. Overcoming his initial wariness about the business, Griffin leaves Scimitar to set up a company called Weargate Ltd, which works with an electrical shop called Salam Radio Colindale to supply Khan’s needs. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later comment that Salam Radio Colindale is a “down on its luck electrical shop which proved terrific cover for such a discreet business,” and that it “would become one of dozens run by expat Pakistanis from similarly unassuming corner stores, supplying components to Khan.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 38-39) Griffin becomes a director of the company in 1977 or 1979, when it changes its name to SR International. However, he is not an owner of the company, which is held by Salam and his wife Naseem. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 38-39; Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 101)

Two retired Pakistani Army officers travel to Britain for the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. They are Major Mohammed Sadiq Malik, a procurement officer, and Captain Fida Hussein Shah, an assistant administrative officer. When interviewed by British officials, they say that Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is their project director. Khan is currently leading an effort to build a uranium bomb. They also say they will visit a company called SR International, which is a front for Khan’s technology procurement efforts linked to two of his associates, Abdus Salam and Peter Griffin (see Summer 1976). (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 101)

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains 20 high-frequency inverters, a key piece of machinery for producing enriched uranium, from Europe. The inverters are ordered by a German contact called Ernst Piffl, based on Canadian literature apparently supplied by an associate of Khan’s named A. A. Khan. They are supplied by Emerson Industrial Controls, a British subsidiary of the US giant Emerson Electrical. Emerson had supplied the same equipment to a British nuclear plant, but does not raise the alarm over such equipment being shipped for Pakistan. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 53-54)

A. Q. Khan and one of his suppliers, the British businessman Peter Griffin, agree that Griffin will provide more equipment for Khan’s work. The agreement follows a purchase of 20 inverters by Khan from another European supplier, Ernst Piffl (see Spring 1978). However, Khan comes to feel that Piffl cheated him over the price of the inverters and asks Griffin, through his company Weargate Ltd., to take care of future business instead of Piffl. Griffin has already been working with Khan’s purchasing network for some time (see Summer 1976). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 54, 471) Piffl will be unhappy that he has lost the business and will alert a British member of parliament to what is going on (see July 1978).

British Energy Secretary Tony Benn announces an inquiry into the sale of British equipment to Pakistan for use in that country’s nuclear weapons program, and suspends such sales. The action results from a tip-off about operations run by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan from a disgruntled former supplier. Ernst Piffl had supplied Khan with 20 inverters, but Khan was unhappy with the price and switched suppliers (see Before July 1978). Piffl then blew the whistle on the business, alerting Frank Allaun, an MP for the British Labour Party, that the components were for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons industry. Allaun, who is associated with the anti-nuclear movement, began to ask questions about the parts in parliament and Benn then decides to suspend sales and start an inquiry. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 54) The inquiry will report back in the fall (see November 1979).

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan mentions inverters, a piece of equipment he needs for his nuclear weapons work, in a letter to an associate named A. A. Khan, who is based in Canada (see June 13, 1978). A. Q. Khan writes: “Perhaps you must have read in some newspapers that the English government is objecting about the inverters. Work is progressing but the frustration is increasing. It is just like a man who has waited 30 years but cannot wait for a few hours after the marriage ceremony.” The reference to the “English government” concerns the suspension of exports to Khan by Great Britain (see Before July 1978). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 54) A. A. Khan’s papers will subsequently be seized when he is arrested by the Canadian authorities for assisting the export of nuclear-weapons-related items to Pakistan (see August 29, 1980), and this letter will presumably be among the papers the Canadians obtain.

A British company sends a metal finishing plant to Pakistan, but later comes to believe that the plant will be used in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The plant is shipped through a company called SR International, a front for Pakistani procurement operations in Britain (see Summer 1976). The transaction will be reported in the Financial Times in December 1979. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 101, 246)

British authorities begin surveillance of Abdus Salam, a businessman based in Britain who supplies equipment for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, in particular through his company SR International (see Summer 1976). The surveillance is apparently prompted by public controversy in Britain over the sale of components that are used in Pakistan’s nuclear program. According to the Pakistani book Long Road to Chagai, Salam is “kept under surveillance,” and a secret search of his office reveals “documents and drawings which were traced to the Urenco plant in the Netherlands,” where Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan used to work (see October 1974). The book’s author, Shahid Ur-Rehman, will say that this information “was revealed in background interviews by Dr. A. Q. Khan himself” and was confirmed by another source. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 100, 246) Salam’s associate Peter Griffin is interviewed by British customs some time in the next year (see 1980).

British authorities intercept telexes between Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and British businessman Peter Griffin, who has been supplying parts for Khan’s nuclear weapons program (see Summer 1976). Griffin will comment: “I would get my usual telex from Khan and the next day a telex from [British] Customs with lists of all the new things going on to the export control list, which coincidentally were all the things that Khan had just asked for.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 55)

The British security service MI5 attempts to recruit Peter Griffin, a key associate of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. Griffin, who has been working with Khan for some time (see Summer 1976), supplies him with equipment for Pakistan’s nuclear program. According to Griffin, he is offered £50,000 (about $100,000 at this time) to inform for the agency, but he tells them his “integrity [is] not for sale.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 55) Despite this apparent refusal, according to authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento: “Some US and European intelligence officials have suggested that Griffin, like others who have had dealings with A. Q. Khan, may have been cooperating with Western authorities, perhaps for a very long time. Asked by one of the authors in a June 2006 e-mail exchange whether he had provided assistance to any Western intelligence service, Griffin will offer a one word reply: ‘Later.’” However, Griffin will not subsequently enlarge on this. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 217)

Abdus Salam, a supplier for the Pakistani nuclear weapons program run by A. Q. Khan, moves from Britain to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 102; Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 56) Salam had supplied equipment for the weapons program from Britain, but the local authorities became extremely interested in his activities (see (Fall 1979)), forcing his relocation. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 102) The move is performed in co-operation with the British businessman Peter Griffin, a close associate of Salam and Khan who also wants to leave Britain because of heavy interest in his work by the authorities. Salam and Griffin agree that Salam will move to Dubai first, with Griffin remaining in Britain to look after that end of Khan’s supply chain. Griffin will say that one reason for the move is that “UK exports to Dubai were not so heavily watched and from there could go anywhere.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 56) In Dubai, Salam serves as a director of a company called Khalid Jassim General Trading, apparently named after his local partner. When visited by a reporter for The Times of London in September 1980 (see September 1980), the company consists of a single room inside a small apartment and has only two office staff. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 102)

Times of London reporter Simon Henderson finds equipment needed for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program outside the office of a supplier in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The equipment, found in a hallway outside the office of Khalid Jassim General Trading, is in four boxes labelled “Mikron infrared thermometers.” The manufacturer, Mikron Instruments of New Jersey, had been told the instruments were for a cement factory in Sharjah, near Dubai. However, Mikron says the instruments can be used to measure the temperature of “moving objects without making contact and in conditions of extreme radiation,” which Henderson thinks makes them “ideal” for use in uranium enrichment centrifuges. Khalid Jassim General Trading and one of its owners, Abdus Salam, have been shipping parts to A. Q. Khan, head of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, for some time (see Summer 1976). (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 106-7)

Some time in 1982 or 1983, Abdus Salam, a member of the nuclear proliferation ring run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, leaves Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Salam had been doing business there for some time, using the company Khalid Jassim General Trading (see Before September 1980). According to David Reed, who will later do business with Salam in Florida, Salam departs Dubai after being sued by the local partner in a joint venture, presumably Khalid Jassim. Salam will tell Reed that the partner claimed to a court that he—the partner—had started the business and put up all the money, the court had sided with the local, and Salam had lost all his money and been sent to jail. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 108) Salam arrives in the US around this time (see December 31, 1982).

Abdus Salam, a member of the nuclear equipment purchasing ring run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, sets up a business named International Reliance in Florida. The name is similar to a British-based business, Source Reliance International (a.k.a. SR International), in which Salam has been a partner and which has been active in the nuclear ring (see Summer 1976). Around the same time, Salam also establishes a number of other US businesses, including three import-export firms, two trading companies, two communications outfits, a computer retailer, two hospitality companies, a financial services enterprise, and several companies involved in indeterminate business. It is unclear if Salam is living in the US at this time or arrives some time the following year. Before coming to the US, he resided in Britain and then the United Arab Emirates, but leaves there around this time, apparently due to a business dispute (see 1982-1983). Authors Joe Trento and David Armstrong will write that given Salam’s involvement in proliferation activities in Britain and Dubai, “it seems reasonable to assume that the US authorities would have kept tabs on him once he arrived.” However, no information about any surveillance of or cooperation with Salam on the part of US authorities is definitively known. (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 114)

Abdus Salam, a member of the nuclear proliferation ring run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan (see Summer 1976 and Before September 1980), has multiple dealings with the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) while residing in the US.
"No Payments" - Julio Bagiardi, one of Salam’s partners in a chain of retail stores, will say: “All he wanted to do was make a lot of deposits at the same bank. He insisted on keeping [all his deposits] at BCCI.” Salam is also “very forceful” in persuading Bagiardi and the other partners to do the same. If they do so, according to Salam, they will have access to “unlimited” cash and, if they make daily deposits, “it would never be a problem if we needed to get money.” In addition, “they [would] never have to pay nothing back,” as there would be “no payments.” Bagiadri will add that Salam “knew somebody” at the bank. David Reed, another partner in the retail stores, will confirm Salam had an account with the bank.
Unusually Generous Overdraft Loan - One transaction is the granting in 1989 of an overdraft, arranged with support from the branch in Park Lane, London. That branch’s manager recommends that its Tampa branch make a loan to Salam, but instead it grants him a “virtually unsecured” $120,000 overdraft line. The overdrafts are usually for customers with substantial account balances, so it is unclear why one is given to Salam, whose balance is “very skimpy,” according to sources for authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento. The line is later moved to one of Salam’s companies, Centaur Impex, backed only by a personal guarantee from Salam and Centaur’s assets. By this time BCCI is in serious trouble and the line is transferred to the Miami branch, which sues Salam for non-payment of the balance, around $50,000. Armstong and Trento’s sources will say that the fact that Salam “had the influence to obtain such a loan without any meaningful collateral” is “very curious,” adding that it “suggests that he may have had influence among highly placed people within BCCI and/or Pakistan.”
"No Recollection" of Salam - When Armstrong and Trento investigate the relationship between Salam and BCCI for a 2007 book, they will have difficulty obtaining information. The court has destroyed records, the lawyers say they have too, BCCI’s liquidators are unable to provide any information, prosecutors and investigators involved in proceedings against BCCI say they knew nothing about Salam, and the various officials of the bank where Salam deposited his money every day for years “either would not return phone calls, denied knowing who Salam was, or claimed that, while the name did ‘ring a bell,’ they could recall no specifics about their former client.” (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 108-111)

I. H. Khan, a procurement agent for Pakistan’s Special Works Organization (SWO) in Germany, sends two payments to the British-based company SR International. I. H. Khan, SWO, and SR International are all involved in procuring equipment in Europe for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The payment in March is for £15,872.26 (roughly $36,000) and the payment in April is for £604.07 (roughly $1,370). Although the payments will be listed as “book debt” in a statement later issued by SR International’s liquidator, they may signify that SR International is continuing to provide nuclear-related equipment for Pakistan, although British authorities have been aware of its activities for several years (see 1978 and (Fall 1979)). (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 101)

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)

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)

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)

Peter Griffin, an associate of A. Q. Khan’s who has been doing business with him for decades (see Summer 1976), decides to return to Europe. Griffin has spent the last several years in Dubai running a company called Gulf Technical Industries, which has been used for Khan’s assistance to Libya (see (July or August 2000) and July 2000). However, Griffin now decides to leave Dubai and return to Europe, where he takes up residence in a villa in France. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 365, 368)

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)

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)

Gulf Technical Industries, a Dubai-based company used by the A. Q. Khan proliferation network to facilitate Libya’s nuclear weapons program (see August 1997 and July 2000), collapses. The reason is that the firm, owned by long-term Khan associate Peter Griffin, suffers adverse publicity following Khan’s public confession to his nuclear proliferation activities (see February 4, 2004). This leads its local sponsor to pull out and its bank to close its accounts, meaning the company has to close. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 529)

Abdus Salam, an associate of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, obtains US citizenship. Salam helped Khan acquire equipment for his nuclear activities in the 1970s and ‘80s (see Summer 1976 and Before September 1980), but moved to the US around 1982 (see December 31, 1982). Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will investigate why an associate of Khan’s was granted US citizenship, and will find that the first mention of him in immigration records dates from 1995, when he was granted work authorization, although this was more than a decade after he arrived in the country. Before getting citizenship, his immigration file contains only records of him entering or leaving the country on his British passport or alien residency card. There are no red flags and nothing about his business activities, which the two authors find “odd,” although accessible records only began in 1987. However, they find that in customs and immigration records Salam’s date of birth is a few days off, meaning that making a positive identification is difficult. In addition, his Social Security number is way off—it is actually for a completely different person with a different name and a long criminal record, including cocaine dealing. The authors think that it is unusual Salam was granted citizenship despite this “rather glaring discrepancy.” (Armstrong and Trento 2007, pp. 114-115)


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