Swiss authorities brought formal charges against Friedrich Tinner and his sons Urs and Marco, all Swiss engineers, last month in connection with a Pakistani directed nuclear smuggling network that served as a supplier for the Libyan atomic weapons program. The indictments against the Tinners dealt specifically with purported violation of arms export laws, and came after a politically fraught Swiss investigation spanning nearly ten years that shed light on an auspicious intelligence campaign against the nuclear progress of rogue states. Federal prosecutors have disclosed that the Tinners allegedly turned over technology and information to the nuclear smuggling ring headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan, a prime mover in the atomic weapons program of Pakistan. The aforementioned network provided essential equipment, including centrifuges used in uranium enrichment, to different nations before its 2003 collapse. A fourth suspect in the current case, not identified and described by prosecutors as having a lesser hand in the supposed operations, will likewise be charged with violating Switzerland’s arms export laws but in a separate proceeding. Meanwhile, the Tinners have consented to the application for an abbreviated legal action, whereby the accused confess to the basic charges and the penalty is capped at imprisonment for five years. Should the shortened legal procedure go forward, the politically charged findings of the investigation would not be revealed in open court.

The Swiss government effectively blocked the issue of the Tinners’ claimed involvement with the CIA from being addressed, by withholding approval for the criminal inquiry sought by prosecutors. Urs Tinner, who spent close to five years in investigative detention prior to the granting of bail in December 2008, has asserted that the CIA recruited him more than a decade ago, said declaration finding support in a book authored by American investigative reporters Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins. Furthermore, he maintained in a television interview with Swiss station SF1 in 2009 that he was the informant who alerted U.S. intelligence to a shipment of centrifuge components destined for the Libyan atomic weapons program. The 2003 confiscation of the centrifuge parts at Taranto, a port in Italy, compelled Libyan acknowledgment and subsequent repudiation of that nation’s undertakings to secure nuclear weapons. The CIA has not issued an official response to the Tinner allegations. However, it has trumpeted the agency’s crucial influence on the A.Q. Khan ring’s downfall.

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