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Malaysia passes law to curb nuclear trafficking

Malaysia passes law to curb nuclear trafficking

Malaysia has passed a law to curb the trafficking of nuclear weapon components after being linked to the illegal supply of sensitive technology to countries including Iran and Libya.
The Strategic Trade Bill was approved by Parliament late Monday, a week before Prime Minister Najib Razak is scheduled to visit Washington for a nuclear security summit on the invitation of President Barack Obama.
The law provides for prison terms of at least five years and fines of millions of ringgit (dollars) for people who illegally bring in or export material that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction. Offenders can be sentenced to death by hanging or life imprisonment if their actions result in casualties.
Nazri Abdul Aziz, the minister in charge of parliamentary affairs, told Parliament that authorities spent five years drafting the legislation, which would enable Malaysia to "cooperate with the world to fight terrorism."
Concerns first surfaced that Malaysia, which has a high-tech manufacturing sector, was being unwittingly used as a base for the shipment of nuclear technology when a Sri Lankan businessman living in Malaysia was jailed in 2004 for allegedly supplying nuclear weapon components to Libya.
Buhary Syed Abu Tahir was held under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial for allegedly deceiving a Malaysian firm linked to a former prime minister's son to supply centrifuge parts for Libya's nuclear program. He had falsely assured the company it was a legitimate deal for Dubai's oil and gas industry.
The activity came to light when a ship owned by a German company was examined in a port in Italy in 2003. Authorities found five Libya-bound containers containing 25,000 centrifuge parts for enriching uranium in wooden boxes with the logo of the Malaysian company.
It led to the uncovering of an international nuclear trafficking network led by Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan. The U.S. subsequently sent a senior anti-proliferation envoy to Malaysia to urge authorities to tighten export controls.
Tahir, a Malaysian permanent resident, was released from custody in 2008 without ever facing formal charges.
In recent years, Malaysia has also been linked to allegations of illegal shipments involving Iran's contentious nuclear program, including the case of an Iranian engineer in France whom the U.S. wants extradited for allegedly evading export controls to buy U.S. technology over the Internet for Iran's military.
The U.S. says Majid Kakavand went online to purchase sensitive U.S. electronics and had them shipped to Malaysia, then on to Iranian military entities. A French court is hearing arguments on whether to extradite him.


Updated : 2021-07-26 13:25 GMT+08:00