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. South African businessman charged with nuclear trafficking
VANDERBIJLPARK, South Africa (AFP) Sep 03, 2004
A South African businessman was charged on Friday with trafficking nuclear material that was reportedly destined for Asian countries, notably Pakistan.

Johan Meyer, 53, appeared in court in this town south of Johannesburg a day after his arrest on charges of being in possession of nuclear-related material and of illegally importing and exporting nuclear material.

"He was arrested on charges that he was building a nuclear weapon," said Meyer's lawyer Heinrich Badenhorst.

Press reports said that Meyer, who lives in Pretoria, was a member of an international ring involved in the smuggling of nuclear components to Asian countries, Pakistan in particular.

According to the charge sheet, Meyer is accused of acquiring material between November 2000 and November 2001 that "could have contributed to the design, development, manufacturing, deployment, maintenance and use of weapons of mass destruction."

It also states that Meyer had acquired equipment, material and plans for the design and use of gas centrifuges, used to enrich uranium, the key ingredient in nuclear bomb-making.

During the arrest on Thursday, investigators seized "items alleged to have been used" in the nuclear smuggling ring, a foreign ministry statement said.

Meyer, who owns an engineering plant in the town of Vanderbijlpark, located some 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Johannesburg, was remanded in police custody pending a bail hearing on September 8.

Investigators separately said the probe into violations of South Africa's law on the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was ongoing and did not rule out further arrests.

The probe is looking into the possible involvement of other individuals and companies in the nuclear smuggling ring.

Spokesman Sipho Nguema for the national prosecuting authority said investigators were cooperating with international agencies but did not give details.

Newspaper reports said that South African intelligence had worked closely with their US and Israeli counterparts in a year-long investigation into nuclear smuggling that led to Meyer's arrest.

US investigators traveled to Cape Town in February to probe allegations of an international nuclear smuggling network after a Cape Town businessman and former Israeli army officer, Asher Karni, was arrested in Denver, Colorado a month earlier.

Karni was charged with trying to smuggle 66 nuclear weapon detonators to Pakistan through his South African company, Top-Cape Technology.

South Africa developed capability as a nuclear threshold state in 1948, the same year the white apartheid government came to power.

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