(February 13, 2004) Although it beggars belief that one man alone could have been responsible, Dr A. Q. Khan admitted to leaking nuclear secrets to North Korea, Libya and Iran - despite earlier reports claiming it had been with the knowledge and approval of senior military officials. Following his confession on a live broadcast on 3 February, Khan apologized to the nation and was swiftly pardoned by President Musharraf who later added that there would be no independent inquiry into the case.
(603.5575) Laka Foundation - Between 1960 and 1963, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan followed metallurgical engineering courses at the Technical University in Germany (Berlin). In 1967, he received his MSc. degree at the Delft Technological University (Netherlands) and became Doctor of Engineering at the University of Leuven (Belgium) in 1972.
After his doctorate in 1972, he began work for the FDO laboratory in Amsterdam (Netherlands), a subcontracting research institute for the Urenco plant in Almelo. Urenco is a consortium set up by the Dutch, British and German governments to provide enrichment technology. FDO was at the time involved in research and development of centrifuge technology. Khan also worked at the Urenco enrichment plant at Almelo itself but left the Netherlands suddenly in 1975. By 1976, he had joined the Engineering Research laboratories (ERL) in Kahuta, Pakistan, to set up a uranium enrichment industrial plant. In 1981, the then president of Pakistan General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq renamed the ERL the Dr. A. Q. Khan Research Laboratories (KRL). It became the main laboratory for Pakistan's nuclear weapons program and its centrifuge plant was used to produce Pakistan's high-enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
It was not until July 1978, that questions were raised about Khan's activities during his time in the Netherlands. In England an anonymous source, believed to be the Israeli secret service, tipped off an MP about a shipment to Pakistan by Emerson Industrial Controls of high-frequency inverters (inverters are an important part of the centrifuge process and stabilize the flow of electricity).
Eventually bells began to ring and in January 1980 a Dutch parliamentary commission concluded that security at Urenco and FDO was lax; that Khan smuggled blueprints for enrichment technology out of the country and had been able to order equipment that could be used in uranium enrichment from Dutch companies. The report also said that even after Khan had left in 1975, it was possible for him to obtain sensitive materials and technology through his contacts.
In 1983, two companies, FDO and Van Doorne (rotor suppliers), and Khan were summoned by the Dutch state and in October Khan was sentenced in absentia to 4 years. However, in 1985 the sentence was nullified because it was not clear that Khan actually had received the writ. Both companies were cleared of all charges.
Khan continued to visit the Netherlands in the 1990s and in 1998 Dutch customs intercepted several shipments to Pakistan ordered by Khan's contacts (meanwhile Pakistan tested a nuclear weapon and Khan was named the "father of the Islamic bomb").
One of his contacts in the Netherlands is said to be Henk Slebos (the famous middleman "Hank S", mentioned by Pakistan authorities recently). Slebos was sentenced to one-year imprisonment in 1985, because of a breach of customs-laws: he exported advanced materials (an oscilloscope) to Pakistan and helped the development of the Pakistan nuclear program. The Dutch Ministry of Economics blocked five shipments from Slebos to Pakistan in 1998. The shipments contained dual-use goods without a declaration by the Pakistani authorities that these were meant for peaceful purposes. Slebos never attempted to obtain a proper export license and likely cancelled the deal.
Slebos had, and still has, several trade companies (Slebos Research, Gemco, Bodmerhof) for "hard-to-find materials" (quote from his website www.slebos.com). In September 2003 Slebos was one of the sponsors of ISAM 2003 (International Symposium on Advanced Materials); organized by the Khan Research Laboratories.
Sources: The Observer, 9 December 1979; Financial Times, 3 March 1980; Trouw (NL), 3 July 1985; Vrij Nederland (NL), 6 June 1998; Press release Dutch organization against arms-trade, 3 September 2003; De Groene Amsterdammer, 6 September 2003; Personal Information, A.Q. Khan, 2003