News Features

Nuclear scandal explodes on Harry J

Ref: SAPM/03/03

11th March 2003

Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Presidential Secretariat
Colombo 01
Sri Lanka


I hope and pray you are in good health and high spirits. I am pleased to know from newspapers and T.V. reports that peace is holding on in your beautiful country.
Excellency, I still very fondly remember the honour of a lengthy audience granted to me by you in the Presidency during your official visit to Pakistan a few years ago. We had discussed various aspects of and solutions for the ongoing insurgency in your beloved country.
Excellency, I am venturing to write to you about a very serious case of fraud and extortion of money by one Mr. Harry Jayawardena, Chairman of Stassen Group of Companies from a dear friend (and like a son to me) Mr. S. Syed Abu Tahir Bokhari, a Sri Lankan national. Tahir’s late father, a thorough gentleman, was a dear friend of mine and I used to visit him often in Colombo and always loved to be there. My association with Sri Lanka has also been due to Sri Lankan ladies working with us and looking after our daughters and grand-daughters since 1976. All these ladies have been very close to your High Commission here, right from the days of Mr. Wouters.
Excellency, about 4 weeks ago, Mr. Harry Jayawardena phoned Tahir in Dubai, who is now running a successful computer company (SMB Computer), and told him that Sri Lankan Intelligence (CID) was making inquiries about him and his connection with me. The fact is that I left the nuclear programe for more than 2 years and even before that the company, Bin Belilah Enterprises Ltd., for which Tahir was working, was owned by Col. Saeed Mattar Bin Belilah who fully knew the nature of our work and we never indulged in any illegal activities. Gen. Sheikh Butti Al-Maktoum, Commander of Dubai and brother-in-law of Gen. Shaikh Mohammad, was fully in the picture of our work and had given his blessing.
Tahir’s uncle, M. Farooq, an Indian national, ran away with a large amount of money to Singapore and got Singaporean nationality. The money belonged to a German engineer who was paid by us as advance money for certain equipment. Farooq used to go to Colombo quite often and import small quantities of onions and coconuts and sell in Dubai. It was a very small enterprise. During his trips to Colombo, Farooq got friendly with Harry Jayawardena through some friend.
Because of the misappropriation of money of the German by Farooq, the relationship between Farooq and Tahir were broken as Tahir and his company had to pay the German about $ 2 million. Farooq and Harry Jayawardena were hand-in-hand in getting hold of this money. All these years Farooq was trying to extort as much money as possible from Tahir and even put a false case against him in Dubai for ownership of SMB which though he lost, but still tried through a lot of friends to get some money from Tahir. To finish the ongoing trouble etc. Tahir listened to some friends who requested him to give some money and the flat in Singapore to Farooq as after all he was his uncle and needed money due to losses in business.
As I mentioned above about 4 weeks ago, Harry Jayawardena, phoned Tahir and said that the Sri Lanka Intelligence (CID) was engaged in investigation against him (Tahir has been living in Dubai for the last 25 years and has no activities or permanent residence in Sri Lanka). He said he could try to find out the details and will get back to him. After 10-11 days he said that an American Intelligence Team (FBI) was in Colombo and was asking the local CID to help this investigation about Tahir’s activities. He said that the local CID Chief would find a way to make a deal with the Americans against some payment. After a few days he said that the FBI people were putting up an extradition request for Tahir with the Sri Lankan government and he needed money urgently to finalize the deal. He said that he and Farooq had met the Defence Minister and had struck the deal. They also said that they had a meeting with intelligence people (CID 4th Floor) and had finalised the meeting. Harry Jayawardena phoned Tahir and said that if he did not send the money immediately his extradition order will be signed by the government. Tahir got panicky and went to the bank and borrowed money against the guarantee and sent $ 1.7 million to Harry Jayawardena in instalments. As Tahir could not get $.3 million more, Harry sent him a fax that as the money was to be urgently paid, he himself had paid the money to the local intelligence people (CID) and now would expect it as soon as possible from Tahir. When I went to Dubai on 8.3.2003, Tahir was broken and a nervous wreck. He narrated the whole story. I immediately saw through the extortion and fraud game organised by Harry Jayawardena and Farooq and asked him not to send any more money. I told him that I will take up the matter with H.E. Gen. Weeerasooriya, your High Commissioner here. I had a meeting with the General yesterday and explained to him the whole case. I also requested him to send my letter to you which he very kindly agreed.
Excellency, this is not the first time that Harry Jayawardena has exhorted money from Tahir. In 1995, he had played the same game and had threatened Tahir that the Indian Intelligence Agencies were in Colombo looking for him and would kidnap him if he did not settle the matter urgently by giving them some money. He took from Tahir $ 500,000/- under this false and fabricated threat. Tahir had to pay the loan to the bank over 5 years.
Excellency, I would most earnestly and strongly request you please to look into this exhortion and fraud case from an innocent, law-abiding Sri Lankan citizen who is projecting the image of Sri Lanka, is employing a number of Sri Lankan people and has been helping the Sri Lankan ambassadors and staff in UAE open heartedly. Excellency please give Harry Jayawardena what he deserves – a few years in solitary confinement and ask him to return the money to Tahir otherwise his company will go bankrupt and Sri Lanka will lose a very fine, hardworking citizen.

With most profound personal regards

Yours sincerely,
(Dr. A.Q. Khan)

PS: Excellency. I am now Special Advisor to the Prime Minister with the status of a Federal Minister


Prior to his confession in February 2004, Dr. A.Q. Khan, at that time, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with the status of a Federal Minister, had addressed a Letter on March 11, 2003, to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, making a serous allegation that Harry Jayawardena of Stassens had extorted from Tahir a sum of US $ 2 million as ‘hush money’ or bribe to do a deal with the CID

The name of Sri Lankan business tycoon, Harry Jayawardena, has surfaced in connection with a nuclear scandal which rocked the international community in 2004.
According to the key player in the whole operation, Dr. A.Q. Khan, Jayawardena had extorted US $ 1.7 million from another Sri Lankan businessman after allegedly blackmailing him with the threat that his activities would be brought to the notice of Sri Lankan and US authorities that were investigating the matter. Pakistani nuclear scientist, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, in 2003, while serving as an advisor to that government, wrote to President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, giving details of how Jayawardena allegedly blackmailed Sri Lankan businessman, B.S.A. Tahir who is now in a Malaysian jail.
The Malaysian based Tahir in 2004, was referred to by President George W. Bush as the ‘chief financial officer’ of the black-market nuclear proliferation operation. The letter by Khan to the Sri Lankan Head-of-State and the consequent exchange of letters between Harry Jayawardena and Tahir, opens up many questions regarding how much the Sri Lankan government and Harry Jayawardena knew about the international nuclear smuggling operation before it came to light.
On February 4, 2004, Dr. A.Q. Khan, known as the ‘father’ of the Pakistan nuclear bomb, made a stunning confession on Pakistan television, that he had sold nuclear secrets and material for nuclear weapons manufacture to Lybia, Iran and North Korea. In view of his high standing in Pakistan as the much respected head of the country’s nuclear programme, President Musharraf granted him a pardon the very next day. Since then he has been under house arrest in Pakistan.
The above startling confession came after a German ship called BBC China, had been boarded and searched in Taranto, Italy, and investigators had seized five containers bound for Libya that held components for centrifuge units required for uranium enrichment used in nuclear weapons of mass destruction. This seizure had been a part of the Proliferation Security Initiative, and international effort to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. US and British intelligence had intercepted and brought the evidence to Malaysian attention.
The Tahir connection
The containers bore the logo ‘Scomi’ of Scomi Precision Engineering, set up by Consultant Urs Friedrich Tinner, whose father had done business with Dr. A.Q. Khan since the 1980s and had helped supply centrifuge components to Libya. It was a politically connected Malaysian company and a wholly owned subsidiary of Scomi Group, Berhad, which was involved primarily in oil and gas business. Its two main shareholders were Kamaluddin Abdullah, the son of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Kamaluddin’s classmate Shah Hakim Zain.
A further startling disclosure was that Sri Lankan businessman, S. Syed Abu Tahir Bokhari, known as B.S.A. Tahir, who had known Dr. A.Q. Khan from the 1970s, had been one of Khan’s key associates since 1994. As per the Washington Post foreign report dated February 21, 2004, Tahir is reported to have informed the Malaysian police authorities how Dr. A.Q. Khan shipped nuclear reactor components to Libya and Iran for their nuclear weapons programmes and received two briefcases with US $ 3 million payment from Iran.
‘Chief Financial Officer’
Sri Lankan Tahir, born in India, had married Nazimah Syed Majid, daughter of a Malaysian diplomat in a society wedding in 1998 and became a permanent resident in Malaysia. It is Tahir who had arranged for the nuclear centrifuge components to be manufactured by the politically connected Malaysian Company, Scomi Precision Engineering. The materials to make centrifuges, 320 tonnes of high quality Aluminium was purchased from Bikar Metal Ltd., a German company in Singapore. Tahir is now held in a high security prison in Malaysia on an arrest order signed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahamed for violation of tough security regulations under the Internal Security Act. US State Department Spokesman, Richard Boucher, has said the US was ‘delighted’ with Tahir’s arrest, stating – “We think his arrest is a major step and it will serve as a catalyst to international efforts to shut down the Khan network”.
The Washington Post and BBC have both reported that President Bush in a public speech had called Tahir, Dr. A.Q. Khan’s nuclear network’s ‘Deputy and Chief Financial Officer and Money Launderer’. According to CIA investigations, Tahir is said to have placed the order for nuclear centrifuge parts with the Malaysian company, Scomi Precision Engineering. However, according to Scomi sources, the actual order is said to have been placed by a Dubai Company, Gulf Technical Industries, in which Tahir had a partner named Paul Griffin. However, Griffin had denied he had any knowledge of the order, despite the fact that the order had gone through and parts delivered.
In September 2005, President Musharraf had revealed that after two years of questioning Dr. A.Q. Khan, it had been confirmed that the nuclear scientist had supplied centrifuge parts for nuclear enrichment. As recently as May 2006, the US House of Representative Sub-committee on International Terrorism and Non-proliferation recommended the demand from Pakistan to turn over Dr. A.Q. Khan to the US for questioning. In June 2006, the Pakistan Senate issued a unanimous resolution criticising the US Committee stating that it will not turn over Dr. A.Q. Khan to US authorities. In August 2006, the Pakistan Government announced that Dr. A.Q. Khan had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. In September 2006 Dr. A.Q. Khan had been operated at Agha Khan Hospital, Karachi, and by October 2006 it had been revealed that his condition had deteriorated.
Damning letter
In another shocking recent revelation, the name of controversial Harry Jayawardena of Stassens Group in connection with this international nuclear scandal has surfaced. Prior to his confession in February 2004, Dr. A.Q. Khan, at that time, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with the status of a Federal Minister, had addressed a letter on March 11, 2003, to President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, making a serous allegation that Harry Jayawardena of Stassens had extorted from Tahir a sum of US $ 2 million as ‘hush money’ or bribe to do a deal with the CID to prevent an inquiry by Sri Lankan authorities as requested by the FBI. The text of the letter to President Kumaratunga is produced in full. A similar letter had been also addressed to then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe.
As per a fax dated March 4, 2003, sent to Tahir to Fax No. 00 971 42219722 from fax no. 00 941 522913 signed by ‘HARRY’ the receipt of US $ 1.7 million has been acknowledged stating – “As explained to you, I had completed this transaction with the authorities concerned on 02nd March 2003 and finalised everything and if I waited for all the funds to come the whole thing would have gone off and come to a guildhall and we would have been back to square one. Therefore, I used my funds to finalize the transaction”.
The Nation is in possession of documents showing transfer of funds to Stassens Exports Ltd. Account No. 0020369628 and to Sonetto Holdings Ltd., Account No. 5040010768, both at City Office, Hatton National Bank Colombo.
Serious questions arise as a consequence. What action did President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe take on such damning allegations of extortion and bribery amounting to US $ 2 million made against business tycoon Harry Jayawardena? Were the authorities, including the Bribery Commission asked to investigate? If not, why? After all the serious allegation is that money had been obtained to hush up an alleged CID and American Intelligence Team (FBI) inquiry, thereby putting the CID into a serious spot, if this were to be true. It would not only have been a cover-up of an international offence of nuclear proliferation, but also that of bribery.
If the allegation against the CID was not true, then would it not be blackmail and extortion of money by Harry Jayawardena? Would this not have been a criminal offence? The very fact that Tahir had paid money in a panic proves that there was something known to him and Harry Jayawardena that they did not want to be discovered or investigated. If Harry Jayawardena, as stated in the Fax of March 4, 2003 had in fact paid the shortfall of US $ 300,000 as stated by him, then would it not imply that he too had wanted, whatever the matter known to both him and Tahir, not to be investigated into? If that is not the case and Jayawardena was bluffing about the whole investigation, it still suggests that Harry knew about the activities of Khan and Tahir and did not act on it, even though such inaction has global repercussions. Instead Jayawardena allegedly extorted money from Tahir using the information in his possession.
As stated in Dr. A.Q. Khan’s letter, both his letters to President Kumaratunga and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have been forwarded, after discussions with the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Pakistan, General Weerasooriya. As an Army General himself, should he not have taken prompt action on this serious matter by reporting it to the relevant authorities? Why did he not do so?
Immediately after Khan’s letter to President Kumaratunga, Harry J. has written to Tahir further threatening him that he would expose him, his brothers, and the activities of Dr. Khan if he, Tahir, did not comply with his demands. In a fax addressed to Tahir, Harry says “Reference to Dr. Khan’s letter of 11th March, which is freely available in Sri Lanka, we thought it is necessary that we initiate an inquiry over here in Sri Lanka to ascertain the truth”. In the same letter Harry J. goes on to say “I may be reluctantly called upon your family members as well for this inquiry to assist this inquiry finding the facts, as some of them were involved including your brothers. In the alternative, we are prepared to effect shipment of tea as per the agreements reached, in which case, it is a duty of you to nominate ships to be completed on receipt of your conformation within three months. These are the only two options available which we would like to explore as there is no way we would compromise.”
Whether or not tea was sold to Tahir is to be established. However, the wording of the letter raises many questions as to whether the subject discussed is in fact tea, since this is being told in the context of bringing Tahir and his brothers in front of an inquiry if he did not comply with Harry’s conditions. The CID also now needs to clarify whether there was in fact a FBI inquiry in collaboration with the local intelligence operatives, and whether the US authorities were in fact demanding Tahir’s extradition. The CID would also need to clear its own name in the scandal in terms of Khan’s allegation that Harry Jayawardena used money to suspend the investigations against Tahir.


Key players of the nuclear scandal

Dr. A.Q Khan is at the centre of the nuclear proliferation scandal which has rocked the Pakistani establishment, strained relations between that country and the United States and shocked the international community to the extent that nuclear technology has been sold in the black market to rogue states. Khan was a hero in Pakistan till it was revealed that he was actively involved in selling nuclear technology to Lybia, Iran and North Korea. In the words of US President George W. Bush, the main financial officer of the A.Q Khan network was Sri Lankan born Buhary Syed Abu Tahir, operating from Malaysia and Dubai. It is now apparent that Harry J. was in the know of the illicit activities of both Khan and Tahir at least by 2003, a year before Khan confessed to his crimes. Jayawardena appears to have used the information to allegedly blackmail Tahir and extort money from the man. Here we profile the international players, Dr A.Q. Khan and B.S.A. Tahir detailing their involvement in the nuclear deal as revealed in several international publications including the Washington Post, BBC and the Taipei Times.


Buhary Syed Abu Tahir Profile

A key figure in the nuclear proliferation plot is BSA Tahir, a Sri Lankan businessman living in Dubai whom US President George Bush called Dr Khan’s “deputy and chief financial officer and money launderer”. It is on behalf of Tahir that Dr A.Q Khan wrote to then Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga in 2003, claiming that Harry Jayawardena has blackmailed and extorted US $ 2 million from the Malaysian based businessman.
For a network that moved nuclear contraband among various continents, Tahir, a product of many worlds, was the ideal middleman. Born in India, he moved to Sri Lanka as a child and then to Dubai when his family opened a company, SMB Group. The firm, which he and his brother owned, was involved in computers and information technology.
Tahir, however, had turned his attention to Malaysia, marrying the daughter of a former Malaysian diplomat in a society wedding in 1998 and gaining permanent residency there.
He also saw business opportunities. Though he had planned in 2001 to manufacture centrifuge components in Turkey with a Turkish associate, Tahir changed his mind and suggested that the parts be produced by a politically connected Malaysian company, Scomi Precision Engineering.
That company, set up in December 2001, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Scomi Group Berhad, which is involved primarily in the oil and gas business. Its two main shareholders are Kamaluddin Abdullah, the son of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and Kamaluddin’s former classmate, Shah Hakim Zain. The pair are controlling shareholders in two investment companies that hold the majority of stock in Scomi Group.
Another major shareholder in one of the investment companies until earlier this year was Tahir’s wife, Nazimah Syed Majid. After Malaysian authorities began investigating Scomi’s involvement with Khan’s nuclear network, company officials asked her to sell her shares to Kamaluddin and his business partner.
It is not clear as to which point Tahir and Khan started their collaboration. However before long Tahir became the key financial player in A.Q Khan’s network to sell nuclear technology and material in the black market. In 2004 Tahir was questioned by Malaysian officials who did not take him in to custody. It is believe that Tahir’s connections to the Malaysian Prime Minister prevented that country from extraditing him to the United States. As recently as November 2006 Tahir was questioned again by CIA officials.


Abdul Qadeer Khan

Abdul Qadeer Khan was born in 1935 into a middle-class Muslim family in Bhopal, India, which migrated to Pakistan in 1952. He qualified as an engineer at the University of Karachi, Pakistan, and after graduation went to West Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium for further studies, earning a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium in 1972.
That same year, he joined the staff of the Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory, or FDO, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. FDO was a subcontractor for URENCO, the uranium enrichment facility at Almelo in the Netherlands, which had been established in 1970 by the United Kingdom, West Germany, and the Netherlands to assure a supply of enriched uranium for European nuclear reactors. The technical details of the centrifuge systems are regulated as secret information by export controls because they could be used for the purposes of nuclear proliferation.
In May 1974, India tested its first nuclear bomb (code named the Smiling Buddha) to the great alarm of the government of Pakistan. Around this time, Dr. A.Q. Khan had privileged access to the most secret areas of the URENCO facility as well as to documentation on the gas centrifuge technology. He left the Netherlands suddenly in January 1976 and was put in charge of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development programme with the support of the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
Dr. A.Q. Khan established the Engineering Research Laboratories at Kahuta, Rawalpindi, in Pakistan in July 1976, subsequently renamed the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) by then-ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, which became the focal point for developing a uranium enrichment capability for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development programme.
In 1987, a British newspaper reported that Dr. A.Q. Khan had openly confirmed Pakistan’s acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability. During the 1980s and 1990s, Western governments became increasingly convinced that covert nuclear and ballistic missile collaboration was taking place between China, Pakistan, and North Korea.
The American clampdown may have prompted an increasing reliance on Chinese and North Korean nuclear and missile expertise. In 1995, the U.S. learned that the Khan Research Laboratories had bought 5,000 specialized magnets from a Chinese government-owned company, for use in the Uranium enrichment equipment. More worryingly, it was reported that Pakistani nuclear weapons technology was being exported to other states aspirant of nuclear weapons, notably, North Korea. United Nations arms inspectors apparently discovered documents discussing Khan’s purported offer in Iraq, which Iraqi officials claimed were legitimate but that they had not agreed to work with Khan, fearing it was a sting operation. A few weeks later, both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests, that finally confirmed both countries’ development of nuclear weapons. The event was greeted with jubilation in both countries and Dr. A.Q. Khan was feted as a national hero. The President of Pakistan, Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, awarded a gold medal to him for his role in masterminding the Pakistani nuclear weapons development programme.
Dr. A.Q. Khan’s open promotion of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities became something of an embarrassment to Pakistan’s government. The United States government became increasingly convinced that Pakistan was trading nuclear weapons technology to North Korea in exchange for ballistic missile technology. In the face of strong U.S. criticism, the Pakistani government announced in March 2001 that Dr. A.Q. Khan was to be dismissed from his post as Chairman, KRL, a move that drew strong criticism from the religious and nationalist opposition to the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf.
Dr. A.Q. Khan came under renewed scrutiny following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S. and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan to oust the fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It emerged that al-Qaeda had made repeated efforts to obtain nuclear weapons materials to build either a radiological bomb or a crude nuclear bomb. In late October 2001, the Pakistani government arrested three Pakistani nuclear scientists, all with close ties to Dr. A.Q. Khan, for their suspected connections with the Taliban.
The Bush administration continued to investigate Pakistani nuclear weapons proliferation, inserting pressure on the Pakistani government in 2001 and 2002 and focusing on Dr. A.Q. Khan’s personal role.
In August 2003, reports emerged of dealings with Iran; it was claimed that Dr. A.Q. Khan had offered to sell nuclear weapons technology as long ago as 1989. In early February 2004, the Government of Pakistan reported that Khan had signed a confession indicating that he had provided Iran, Libya, and North Korea with designs and technology to aid in nuclear weapons programs, and claimed that the government had not been complicit in the proliferation activities. On February 4, 2004, Khan appeared on national television and confessed to running a proliferation ring; he was pardoned the next day by Musharraf, the Pakistani president, but held under house arrest.