WASHINGTON: Five men have been indicted in the United States for allegedly running an international network that purchased US products for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. “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 programs,” assistant attorney general John Demers said in a statement.
The five, who live outside the United States and have not been apprehended, were indicted by a grand jury in October, the Justice Department said. The indictment was unsealed on Wednesday and arrest warrants are pending.
The five were accused of operating a front company called “Business World” in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. They were identified as Muhammad Kamran Wali, 41, of Pakistan, Muhammad Ahsan Wali, 48, and Hajji Wali Muhammad Sheikh, 82, both of Mississauga, Ontario, Ashraf Khan Muhammad of Hong Kong, and Ahmed Waheed, 52, of Ilford, England.
They were charged with conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Export Control Reform Act.
“The alleged behaviour of these five individuals presented more than a violation of US export laws,” said Jason Molina, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security. “It posed a potential threat to the national security interests of the United States and to the delicate balance of power among nations within the region.”
According to the indictment, between September 2014 and October 2019, the five procured US goods without export licenses for Pakistan’s Advanced Engineering Research Organization and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. According to Masood Farivar’s report for VOANews, the men transported the goods to Pakistan’s Advanced Engineering Research Organization and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission without export licenses, according to the indictment. It identified 38 illegal nuclear-related exports from 29 U.S. companies to Pakistan between September 2014 and October 2019.
The defendants tried to hide the destinations of the exports in Pakistan by using their network of front companies as the purported importers and end users, according to the indictment.
The men, who live in Pakistan, Canada, Hong Kong and England, were charged in federal court in New Hampshire, where three of the U.S. companies are based, with conspiracy to violate U.S. export control laws. None of the U.S. companies was found to be complicit in the unlawful exports.
According to a media report, one of the indicted man 52-year old Ahmed Waheed lives in Ilford, Essex. Ilford Recorder has reported that Mr Waheed owns Business International GB, an office above a storefront in Oakfield Road. He along with four others have been indicted for allegedly using front companies, including one in Ilford, to export US defence technology worth almost $300,000.
The two Pakistani entities – AERO and PAEC – are on the U.S. Commerce Department’s list of companies required to hold export licenses because their activities are deemed contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.
PAEC was added to the list in 1998 after Pakistan carried out a series of underground nuclear tests in response to Indian nuclear tests. AERO was included in 2014 after the U.S. found that it had used intermediaries and front companies to acquire goods for Pakistan’s cruise missile and strategic unmanned aerial vehicle programs, the Justice Department said.
Pakistan is one of nine nuclear powers in the world, with an estimated 150 to 160 warheads in its nuclear arsenal, according to the Arms Control Association.