Kazakhstani Court Sentences Four to Jail for Attempted Cesium Sale

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Global Security Newswire Staff
April 23, 2014, 8:34 a.m.

A Kaza­kh­stani court has sen­tenced mem­bers of a nuc­le­ar-smug­gling ring to mul­ti­year pris­on terms for their roles in an at­temp­ted sale of cesi­um.

An en­gin­eer at a Kaza­kh­stani urani­um-en­rich­ment fa­cil­ity and an as­so­ci­ate were giv­en four-year pris­on sen­tences by a Karaganda re­gion court, In­ter­fax re­por­ted on Tues­day. Two oth­er in­di­vidu­als were sen­tenced to three years be­hind bars, said judge Bakhyt Akh­met­ova.

The con­tain­er of ra­dio­act­ive cesi­um-137 is to be des­troyed, ac­cord­ing to the court rul­ing.

Cesi­um-137 is used in the med­ic­al field, but the ma­ter­i­al could also be used to build a so-called “dirty bomb,” which would use con­ven­tion­al ex­plos­ives to dis­perse harm­ful ra­di­olo­gic­al ma­ter­i­als across a large area.

The en­gin­eer pilfered the cesi­um-137 from a stor­age fa­cil­ity in the early 1990s and for years kept the ma­ter­i­al hid­den in a tightly sealed con­tain­er at his work­place. However, last June he passed the ra­dio­act­ive ma­ter­i­al to three in­di­vidu­als who lived in the area, ask­ing them to find a buy­er.

The smug­gling ring was dis­rup­ted on June 19, 2013, when a cov­ert Kaza­kh­stani Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee agent ac­quired the ma­ter­i­al for $250,000. After the deal was made, all four traf­fick­ers were ap­pre­hen­ded.

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