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Pakistan interrogating businessman over nuke links: report

February 14, 2004 15:42 IST
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Pakistan is interrogating Aizaz Jafri, a prominent Pakistani businessman detained along with six others, for allegedly acting as a middleman in the global trading network in nuclear devices established by Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, a report said on February 13.


Jafri's dealings, said The Wall Street Journal quoting Pakistani officials, are shedding light on the vast business and financial networks established by Dr Khan in more than two decades of global arms dealings.


"We believe Jafri was an intermediary between Dr Khan and the larger illicit network," a Pakistani official said.


Jafri, in his forties, is one of seven Pakistani nationals whom the government is investigating for an alleged role in Dr Khan's illicit sales, but he is the only private businessman in the group. Three of the detainees are retired military officers, Pakistani officials said, while the remaining three men worked with Dr Khan at his Khan Research Laboratories. KRL has been the leading research facility in developing Pakistan's atomic weapons program.


Jafri, according to officials and colleagues and quoted in the WSJ, is a former Islamabad banker who serves as a front man for dozens of businesses established by Dr Khan during recent years. He serves as the managing director of the Best Western Hotel in Islamabad, according to the hotel's management, and runs dozens of restaurants and hotels either partially or fully owned by Dr Khan, investigators said.


"Most of Dr Khan's businesses were looked after by Jafri," a Pakistani official said.


A manager at the Best Western in Islamabad said that Jafri shuffles between Lahore and Islamabad and didn't keep an office at the hotel. Jafri initially worked for Pakistan's National Development Corp, a state-owned company, before getting into Dr Khan's hotel businesses, according to the Pakistani officials.


Jafri made frequent trips to Dubai during recent years, a Pakistani official said, and the government is investigating his connections to Dr Khan's other business interests in the Middle Eastern financial hub.


Pakistani analysts said the Pakistani businessman could have helped launder the money Dr Khan received from his arms dealings into legitimate businesses in side Pakistan.


Hot Shots, an Islamabad bowling alley and mall complex, said the WSJ, quoting Pakistani officials, is one of the businesses tied to Jafri and Dr Khan. A two-storey structure in the middle of Islamabad's massive Fatima Jinnah Park, the complex is frequented by teenagers and wedding parties. A photo of Dr Khan attending a function hangs from one of the walls in its foyer.


The restaurant is managed by North Private Ltd and partly owned by Jafri, officials said.

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