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Swiss destroyed Khan network data

The CIA’s deal with a family of Swiss engineers helped it to reveal underground supply network of disgraced Pak nuclear scientist AQ Khan, end Libyan atomic programme and expose Iranian ambitions.

world Updated: Aug 26, 2008 00:58 IST

The CIA’s deal with a family of Swiss engineers helped it to reveal underground supply network of disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan, end Libyan atomic programme and expose Iranian ambitions.

A report in The New York Times on Monday said Switzerland had acknowledged in May that it had destroyed a huge trove of computer files and other materials, documenting the business dealing of the Swiss family suspected of helping smuggle nuclear technology to Libya and Iran, so that they do not fall in the hands of terrorists.

But the newspaper said the real reason for the destruction was pressure from the CIA, which feared that its ties with the family would be exposed.

It said the operation involved Friedrich Tinner and his two sons, who have been accused in Switzerland of dealing with rogue nations seeking nuclear equipment and expertise.

Over four years, the report citing unnamed officials said, operatives of the CIA paid Tinners as much as $10 million, some of it delivered in a suitcase stuffed with cash. In return, the Tinners delivered a flow of secret information that helped end Libya’s bomb programme, reveal Iran’s atomic labours and ultimately, undo Khan’s nuclear black-market.

In addition, the officials were quoted as saying, the Tinners played an important role in a clandestine American operation to funnel sabotaged nuclear equipment to Libya and Iran, a major but little-known element of the efforts to slow their nuclear progress.

The relationship with the Tinners “was very significant,” the newspaper quoted Gary S Samore, who ran the National Security Council’s nonproliferation office when the operation began, was quoted as saying.