ZURICH, Switzerland — Critical components and specialized tools destined for Libya’s nuclear weapons program disappeared before arrival in 2003 and international investigators now suspect that they were diverted to another country, according to court records and investigators.
Efforts to find the missing equipment have led to dead ends, raising what investigators said was the strong likelihood that the sophisticated material was sold to an unidentified customer by members of the international smuggling ring that had been supplying nuclear technology and weapons designs to Libya.
The equipment — components for advanced centrifuges, along with material and precision tools to manufacture more of them — does not constitute an immediate threat, but nuclear experts said it would cut years off an effort to enrich uranium for an atomic bomb.
The mystery of the missing high-tech equipment illustrates both the extensive knowledge investigators have gained about the smuggling operation and the troubling gaps that remain. It also raises the question of whether a rogue nation or group might be secretly building a nuclear weapon.