British businessman arrested after uranium found at Heathrow airport

"I want to be clear that despite making this arrest, and based on what we currently know, this incident still does not appear to be linked to any direct threat to the public," Metropolitan Police's Counter Terrorism Commander Richard Smith said.

Published: January 16, 2023 1:46pm

Updated: January 16, 2023 2:45pm

A British businessman has been arrested after a small amount of radioactive uranium was found as he was traveling through Heathrow Airport. 

The British citizen, who is in his 60s, was detained by counterterrorism police following the discovery of traces of uranium at Heathrow on Dec. 29 in a consignment of scrap metal intended for an Iranian registered business based in the United Kingdom, The Telegraph reported

The man was questioned under section nine of the Terrorism Act 2006, which created an offense “of making or possessing a radioactive device or possessing radioactive material with the intention of using it” in the commission or preparation of an act of terrorism. The section of that law is rarely used. 

The police announced on Sunday that they had found no evidence of a plot and that they believed the incident wasn’t linked to any direct threat to the public. 

The businessman was arrested Saturday morning and released on bail Sunday until April after being questioned by police. 

The head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, Commander Richard Smith, said in a statement on Sunday, “The discovery of what was a very small amount of uranium within a package at Heathrow Airport is clearly of concern, but it shows the effectiveness of the procedures and checks in place with our partners to detect this type of material.  

“Our priority since launching our investigation has been to ensure that there is no linked direct threat to the public,” Smith continued. “To this end, we are following every possible line of enquiry available to us, which has led us to making this arrest over the weekend.” 

“I want to be clear that despite making this arrest, and based on what we currently know, this incident still does not appear to be linked to any direct threat to the public,” he added. “However, detectives are continuing with their enquiries to ensure this is definitely the case.” 

Border Force officials at Heathrow called in police after discovering cargo contaminated with a “very small amount of uranium” during a routine screening using sophisticated radioactive scanning equipment. 

While the identity of the businessman is unclear, it has been reported he’s involved with a company that imports scrap metal. 

The uranium was contained within metal bars which came from Pakistan and were placed in the hold of an Oman Air passenger jet at Muscat Airport en route to London, according to the reports. 

Citing senior sources, The Telegraph reported that it was most likely that uranium contamination of the metal bars was accidental, rather than part of a terrorist plot. 

The arrest comes after the execution of dual British-Iranian citizen and former Iranian deputy defense minister Alireza Akbari was executed in Iran for allegedly spying for MI6. British intelligence services have also accused the Iranian regime of backing at least 10 plots to murder or kidnap opponents on UK streets in the last year. 

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