AQ Khan investigator being probed
* New book claims agent discredited to distract attention from US-UK failure to seize chance to shut down smuggling network
Daily Times, December 17, 2007
LAHORE: A British customs agent who investigated the nuclear smuggling network of Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has himself become the target of a British criminal probe after being prominently featured in a book by American researchers, according to an article published in The Washington Post on Sunday.
Atif Amin’s house and car were searched last week by British authorities with warrants alleging violations of the country’s Official Secrets Act, according to legal documents obtained by The Washington Post.
The action came less than two months after the publication of “America and the Islamic Bomb,” which chronicles Amin’s efforts to uncover the Khan network in 2000, more than three years before US and British intelligence officials broke up the smuggling ring.
The book’s authors, David Armstrong and Joseph Trento, contend that Western intelligence agencies knowingly allowed the smuggling ring to operate for years before moving to shut it down. During this interlude, Khan passed nuclear parts and know-how to Iran, North Korea and Libya, the authors contend.
Smuggling network: “It’s a story Washington and London do not want out,” said Armstrong. “If Amin can be discredited, it would distract the public from the fact that the US and Britain prevented the most dangerous nuclear smuggling operation in history from being shut down when the opportunity existed.”
In the book, Amin is described as the director of Operation Akin, a customs investigation that in 2000 began targeting Persian Gulf-based companies allegedly involved in the trafficking of militarily sensitive technology. While working on the investigation in Dubai, Amin began tracing the flow of nuclear-related equipment through companies with ties to Dr Khan, the article said. In the spring of 2000, as Amin closed in on Khan at the centre of the smuggling operation, he was ordered to quit the case and return to Britain, the authors state.
The reason given to Amin for the abrupt change was that British and US spies who were monitoring the network were worried that his questioning would disrupt their operation and expose informants, the article said. Amin complied with the orders, but, according to the book, complained bitterly about what he says was a missed opportunity to crush the smuggling ring early.
“They knew exactly what was going on all the time,” Amin is quoted as saying. “If they’d wanted to, they could have blown the whistle on this long ago.”