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US charges 5 over illegal exports for Pakistan's nuclear programme; Islamabad says no information

According to the indictment, between September 2014 and October 2019, the five operated an international procurement network of front companies that existed to acquire US-origin goods for the Advanced Engineering Research Organisation (AERO) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). They exported US-made goods to the two Pakistani entities.

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Last Updated: Jan 17, 2020, 10.08 PM IST
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WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: The indictment of five men in the US for allegedly running an international network that purchased sensitive goods for Pakistan's nuclear programme not only posed a threat to America's national security interests but also to the delicate balance of power in the region, according to a senior US law enforcement official.

The US Department of Justice on Wednesday said a grand jury has indicted five, all associated with the front company 'Business World' in Rawalpindi in Pakistan, including an 82-year-old man, for operating an international procurement network to export US-origin goods for Pakistan's nuclear programme.

The five were identified as Muhammad Kamran Wali, 41, of Pakistan; Muhammad Ahsan Wali, 48, and Haji Wali Muhammad Sheikh, 82, both of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; Ashraf Khan Muhammad of Hong Kong; and Ahmed Waheed, 52, of Ilford, Essex, United Kingdom. None of them has been arrested, although arrest warrants are pending.

"The defendants smuggled US-origin goods to entities that have been designated for years as threats to US national security for their ties to Pakistan's weapons programmes," said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.

"The alleged behaviour of these five individuals presented more than a violation of US export laws, it posed a potential threat to the national security interests of the US and to the delicate balance of power among nations within the region," according to Jason Molina, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations.

According to the indictment, between September 2014 and October 2019, the five operated an international procurement network of front companies that existed to acquire US-origin goods for the Advanced Engineering Research Organisation (AERO) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC).
They exported US-made goods to the two Pakistani entities, placed on the US Commerce Department's Entity List, without export licenses in violation of federal law, the officials said.

The indictment identified 38 separate exports from the US over the years by the five involving 29 different companies from around the country. None of the US companies is alleged to have been complicit in the illegal exports, a statement from the Justice Department said.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said on Friday that Pakistan was trying to verify facts about the individuals indicted by US for alleged export of items of restricted categories to entities in the country.

She said Pakistan saw reports about the indictment of five individuals alleged to have exported items to some Pakistani entities on the US Department of Commerce Entity List.

"We have received no official information from the US and are trying to ascertain the facts. The identities of the individuals have not been shared with us. There has been no effort to verify any facts from us," she said.

Farooqui said Pakistan was not in a position to comment without having details as there had been instances in the past when restrictions were placed on Pakistani entities on mere suspicion.

"In many cases denials have been made based on 'catch-all' provisions for items which were not even on any control lists and were intended for purely peaceful uses and socio-economic development,” she said.

She said Pakistan has genuine socio-economic development needs involving utilisation of equipment, items and technologies, some of which might also be dual-use technologies.

"In such cases, we ensure that we follow all end-use certification requirements and provide guarantees against any misuse or diversion. If there are any additional requirements/guarantees required, we are always willing to consider those,” she maintained.

While Pakistan was denied of technology, "one country in our region has been provided waivers and special status for access to sensitive technologies," the Foreign Office spokesperson said, referring to India.

She said this has led to the development of advanced military weaponry and posing a threat to the strategic stability in South Asia.

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