Gua Tak Tahu

By Hakim Joe

Nobody actually knows how Kaspadu got involved in the manufacturing of precision centrifuge components eventually bound for Libya and those who do is not telling. Whether they consciously manufactured these sophisticated dual-purpose parts for use in the enrichment process of uranium (for use in nuclear bombs) or not is beside the point. The matter of fact is that they were caught doing it. 

Scomi came into existence when Kaspadu bought over Subang Commercial Omnibus & Motor Industries and renamed it Scomi Sdn. Bhd. After restructuring all the companies owned by both Scomi and Kaspadu into the Scomi portfolio, this vehicle was targeted for listing on KLSE’s 2nd Board in 2003. Records in October 2000 showed three individuals, namely, Nazimah Syed Majid, Kamaluddin Abdullah and Shah Hakim @ Shahzanim bin Zain as the owners/directors of Kaspadu Sdn. Bhd.

Scomi Group Berhad was officially granted listing on the KLSE on May the 15th 2003 with an opening price of RM1.85 and quickly rose to a record high of RM16.80 on the 7th of November 2003. It is trading between RM0.40 and RM0.50 these days after a share split (1 into 5) when the company transferred the listing from KLSE 2nd Board to Main Board.

Incidentally, it was also during this period of time that Kamaluddin’s father became the Malaysian PM. As of April 2008, Kaspadu owns 20.86% (direct) and 13.47% (indirect through Onstream Marine Sdn. Bhd.) of Scomi together with Shah Hakim’s personal holdings of 529,100 shares (0.05%) making it a total of 345,866,125 shares or 33.9%.

It all started in February 2004 when BBC telecasted an investigative program that pointed the finger directly at Scomi Precision Engineering Sdn. Bhd. (SCOPE) as the manufacturer of uranium enrichment components seized from a boat bound for Libya in the Mediterranean Sea.

Deniability was impossible as the crates inside these five 40-foot long containers holding these components had Scomi’s markings all over it, which in fact was a blessing in disguise because it was not known until later that CIA operatives were monitoring the loading of these components in Malaysia.

Censorship of the media was also unfeasible because the story was carried by reputed international print and broadcast media and the UN Security Council was interested as well (Malaysian authorities however managed to blackout the news of the arrests of the CEO and four senior executives of Mitutoyo Corporation for selling controlled precision production equipment to Scomi without prior approval from the Japanese Government).

So, how was it that a third world country like Malaysia is capable of such high tech manufacturing processes? Well, in Boleh-Land, anything also-lah can (except for taking responsibility when caught with the hand inside the cookie jar). 

SCOPE was in fact established after receipt of orders from the client, not before. It is henceforth accurate to say that this first order (worth about RM 13 million) was a one-off affair involving the precision manufacturing of 14 different types of components. The client is none other than the Sri Lankan husband of Nazimah Syed Majid, one of the owners of Kaspadu Sdn. Bhd., representing General Technical Industries LLC of Dubai.

Buhary Seyed Abu Tahir (BSA Tahir) married Nazimah Syed Majid in 1998 and was an appointed director in SCOPE. With these first orders, Scomi proceeded to purchase the machinery required for this job, which included precision lathes, CNC turning and machining centres, metal cutters, precision measuring devices, hydraulic CNC pressbrakes and surface grinders. Owing to the fact that the factory will be a new setup, BSA Tahir sent Urs Friedrich Tinner (of Switzerland) to be the consultant to SCOPE. 

Who is BSA Tahir? Born in India but a Sri Lankan national (and a Malaysian PR) whose business is based in Dubai, BSA Tahir is the Group Managing Director of SMB Group (which includes SMB Distribution, SMB Computers – Retail Stores, SMB Computers – Corporate Sales, SMB Customer Care, SMB Networking and Communications and Peripherals Gulf Limited) together with his brother Seyed Ibrahim Bukhary.

SMB Group is the largest computer peripheral and electronic goods distributor in UAE and possesses a deep footprint across the Middle East with sole distributorship from Fujitsu, Samsung, TEAC, 3Com, Acer, Siemens, Epson, Creative, Palm and US Robotics.

As principal consultant representing the buyers, Urs Friedrich Tinner wasted no time sourcing and importing the equipment and raw material that was required for the fabrication of these precision parts.

These included CNC Lathe Hawk (Cincinnati) from the UK, CNC Machining Center Arrow 500 (Cincinnati), also from the UK, CNC Lathe Mexica 590 (Cazeneuve) in France and Emco PC Turn 155 from UK. Two other machines made in Taiwan i.e. Automated Bandshaw Cutting Machine (Averizing) and Universal Tool Grinder (Monaset) were bought from local agents. Five units of precision measuring devices were bought from Mitutoyo Corporation of Japan together with an order for 300 MT of high-grade aluminium (Grade 6061 & Grade 6082) from Bikar Metal Pte Ltd in Singapore.

The finished components included casings, molecular pumps, top spacers, positioners, top ends, crash rings, stationary tubes, clamp holders and flanges were sent to Dubai on four separate occasions between December 2002 and August 2003 addressed to Aryash Trading Company.

These precision parts were fabricated from component technical drawings that were supplied by Urs Tinner and he made sure that SCOPE did not keep any duplicates after each component had been manufactured. Urs Tinner even went to the extent of removing the hard disk from the computer that he was using and his personnel file from SCOPE when he left the company. The only thing he left behind was a 1948 Swiss-made manual turning machine.

In late August 2003, CIA operatives tracking the mastermind Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan (another story by itself) landed on the shores of Malaysia. They were fortunate because production of these components was reaching completion and arrived just in the nick of time to monitor the last shipment to Dubai in late September.

US spy satellites tracked the shipment as it wound its way to Dubai, where it was relabelled “used machinery” and transferred to a German-owned ship, the BBC China. When it headed through the Suez Canal bound for Libya, the order went out from Washington to have it seized. This was accomplished on the 4th of October at Taranto, Italy where the five containers were confiscated.

On the 10th of November 2003, two intelligence representatives from the United States and Britain (the CIA and the MI6) met the Director of the Special Branch at Bukit Aman. The focus of their discussion was the ongoing investigation related to the international network that is suspected of being involved in the illegal transfer of nuclear technology to third countries.

No actions were taken against either BSA Tahir or SCOPE because the precision parts were of dual purpose – they can be used in the manufacturing of centrifuges and can also be used in the oil and gas industry.

Furthermore, SCOPE delivered these finished products to Dubai and not directly to Libya. The purchase of the high-grade aluminium rods was also legal, as they are not categorised as a controlled item. This material can be utilised in the manufacturing of racing bicycles and oil tankers. Based on these evidences, BSA Tahir was not arrested and SCOPE was cleared of all wrongdoings. A visiting US diplomat on his way to China also made clear to the Badawi administration that the US does not hold Malaysia responsible.

Scomi washed its hand of this affair when the other Kaspadu shareholders demanded that Nazimah Syed Majid sell all her shares to them. Both herself and her husband were then asked to voluntarily resign (as directors) from the company.

So far so good but yet a few questions remained unanswered. As PDRM has cleared both BSA Tahir and SCOPE of any crime, why was BSA Tahir detained a few months later and incarcerated under the Internal Security Act? When questioned, AAB promptly answered that BSA Tahir “is a threat to national security”. Did the former PM state “national security” as in the security of Malaysia?

Question: How can the manufacture of certain dual-purpose parts (that can be used in the petrochemical and water purification industry) threaten the security of the nation?

The second thing is that when the containers were sent to another company (Aryash Trading Company) instead of the buyer (General Technical Industries LLC), didn’t SCOPE seek clarification and written authorisation before complying with the change?

Thirdly, can the manufacturer and its salesman be held accountable for the misuse of its products?

If the answer is yes, then both BSA Tahir and SCOPE must be responsible for it. If the answer is no, both BSA Tahir and SCOPE must be exonerated. How is it then that one is liable when the other is not?

Fourthly, if the Malaysian Government has sufficient evidence to detain BSA Tahir, why wasn’t he arrested and put to trial (instead of being incarcerated indefinitely under the ISA)?