The United States Justice Department indicted four Israeli businessmen Tuesday for allegedly attempting to bribe the defense minister of an African country in order to secure a multimillion-dollar contract to supply his country with military equipment. 18 other businessmen were indicted in the same case.

The U.S. Department of Justice identified the Israelis as Ofer Paz, 50 - the president and chief executive officer of an Israeli company, Paz Logistics, that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries; Haim Geri, 50 - the president of a North Miami Beach, Fla., company that serves as a sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries; Yochanan R. Cohen, aka Yochi Cohen, 47 - the chief executive officer of a San Francisco company that manufactures security equipment, including body armor and ballistic plates; and Israel Wissler, former CEO of the company Ayit which sold equipment to the Israeli Defense Forces.

Twenty-one of the businessmen, including the Israelis, were arrested in Las Vegas on the eve of a major annual military equipment sales show, following a two-and-a-half-year FBI undercover sting operation.

The defendants allegedly agreed to pay a 20 percent commission to an undercover FBI agent who posed as the African minister.

The indictments allege conspiracy and substantive violations of the corrupt practices act and conspiracy to engage in money laundering.

The charges relating to the corrupt practices act carry a maximum five-year prison sentence on conviction. The maximum sentence for money laundering conspiracy is 20 years.

The case is the largest single investigation and prosecution of individuals in the history of the 1977 U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars bribery of foreign government officials. It is also the first large-scale use of an undercover operation in enforcing the corrupt practices act.