The founder of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme has said he shared his expertise with North Korean scientists in the 1990s after channelling bribes to top military officials, a news report said Thursday.
Abdul Qadeer Kahn was quoted by the Washington Post as saying he transferred more than 3 million dollars received from North Korea to senior Pakistani officials, before receiving permission from the military to share the sensitive information about his programme, DPA reported.
Kahn also released a letter which he says he received from North Korean authorities with details of the deal, the report said. Experts said the letter was probably authentic, according to the article.
The scientist has been under investigation in Pakistan for selling nuclear secrets, but many officials have long maintained he acted alone. If genuine, the letter is new evidence that higher officials were also involved.
The document, apparently signed by then-secretary of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea Jon Byong Ho and dated July 15, 1998, contained details of events known only to a handful of people, US officials were quoted as saying.
The former senior Pakistani officers named in the letter were quoted as calling it a fake and denying involvement in the alleged bribery.
Experts believe that Pakistan's shipments of centrifuges and technical drawings helped North Korea to develop the uranium-enrichment facility that Pyongyang showed to a group of US experts in November.
The Washington Post said it obtained the letter from former British journalist Simon Henderson, who has written extensively about Kahn, but said he did not have the resources to verify the letter's authenticity.
Kahn has been the object of international criticism and an investigation by Pakistani authorities for allegedly profiting personally out of nuclear deals with North Korea, Libya and Iran.
He was detained and questioned in 2004 before confessing on television to running a proliferation ring, and receiving a pardon from then-president General Pervez Musharraf.
He has been released from house arrest, but remains under close surveillance from the authorities, who also limit his communications.