WMD suspect arrested in Durban

By Anil Singh and Sapa

Hours after the withdrawal of charges against Gauteng businessman Johan Meyer for contravening laws governing weapons of mass destruction and nuclear energy, Durban police swooped on a luxury penthouse on the beachfront and arrested a German-born engineer on similar charges.

Police then chartered a special flight to whisk him to Johannesburg on Wednesday night.

The 65-year-old engineer is also facing similar charges in Germany and was arrested a forthnight ago.

While Durban detectives were making the arrest on the beachfront, detectives arrested another suspect in Sandton.

Spokesperson for the police national commissioner Director Sally de Beer on Thursday confirmed the arrests.

The two men are expected to appear in the Vanderbijlpark magistrate's court on Thursday.

De Beer said she had very few details as the arrests were made late on Thursday night. Police would not release any further information due to the sensitive nature of the investigations. "At this stage we cannot rule out further arrests," said De Beer.

However, the Daily News can reveal that a team of senior detectives arrested the man on the 34th floor of the luxury Maluti flats on Durban's beachfront. The man was driven to Durban International Airport and flown to Johannesburg.

It is believed that the engineer arrived in Durban last week - soon after the arrest of Meyer on Thursday.

While, detectives were searching the Durban flat, the German engineer opted to remain silent and called his lawyer Advocate Anand Choudree.

Choudree confirmed on Thursday that he had been briefed by his client and that they would be defending the charges.

"I am on my way to Johannesburg at the moment and I expect my client to make a court appearance later in the day," said Choudree.

Choudree said that his client was a respected engineer in Johannesburg who operated his own business.

The two men face charges of contravening the Nuclear Weapons and Energy Acts.

On Wednesday similar charges against Meyer were withdrawn.

Beeld newspaper reported on Thursday that Meyer was a "small link" in an international smuggling network connected to Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme.

It said it had learnt there is a link between Meyer and Gerhard Wisser, who lives in South Africa but who was arrested in Germany two weeks ago.

Wisser was allegedly a middleman to secure locally made parts for the network that could be used in nuclear weapons.

Meyer was arrested last week on three charges under the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Energy Acts.

After a brief court appearance on Friday, he returned to the court on Wednesday, but his application for bail was withdrawn without explanation from his legal team.

He was whisked away, supposedly to a prison until his next court appearance, but in a surprise second appearance later on Wednesday morning, charges against him were withdrawn.

A court official said : "The State informed me that charges were being withdrawn. I was not given a reason," he said, adding that Meyer was now "a free man".

His attorney, Heinrich Badenhorst, would not comment on the withdrawal of the charges.

In a statement, South Africa's Council for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons said the investigation was "in the context" of the AQ Khan "network".

Abdul Khan was a leading figure in Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, and was involved in the final test detonation of Pakistan's first nuclear bomb.

Meyer's attorney would not comment on whether he would be assisting with the international investigation.

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