Groningen, 30 January 2009
The Amsterdam Court of Appeal today sentenced Dutch businessman Henk Slebos, to 18 months jail, of which 6 months suspended, plus 135,000 euro in fines for illegal exports of proliferation sensitive material to Pakistan. This is 6 months more than the district court ruled in 2005. The verdict closes a court case that started in 2004 and marks the first prison sentence for a man who himself has admitted to wilfully contributing to Pakistan’s nuclear bomb.
Studying at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands in the 1960’s, Slebos became a close friend of Abdul Qadeer Khan, founding father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. After Khan’s sudden return to Pakistan in 1975, where he became the head of the uranium enrichment project, Slebos became one of Khan’s key middlemen in Europe. Over the years Slebos has supplied a whole range of components needed for Pakistan’s nuclear programme exploiting lax export legislation.
Today’s verdict only covers a minor part of Slebos’ activities. Most striking however is the fact that Slebos could continue his trade, while intelligence and law enforcement agencies were aware of his commercial contacts with Khan since the late 1970s. “The Slebos case is a sad illustration of decades of failed counter proliferation policies”, says Frank Slijper, author of a report on Slebos’ proliferation activities. “It reveals a lack of political will to stop the export of components that contributed to extensive nuclear proliferation. Only after thirty years this man now goes to jail.”
A concise report on Slebos was published in September 2007: Project Butter Factory: Henk Slebos and the A.Q. Khan nuclear network, authored by Frank Slijper. The report can be downloaded here.