Sources: Two Israelis suspected of smuggling weapons to Iran
Two Israelis are currently under suspicion - for the third time in the last decade - of smuggling arms to Iran, police and Defense Ministry sources told Haaretz over the weekend.
Eli Cohen and Avihai Weinstein are suspected of smuggling components for Hawk missiles and radar systems used in Phantom fighter jets. The components were purchased in the United States, and allegedly were to be sold to Iran via additional middlemen.
Police questioned the two men about the affair a few weeks ago, and raided the warehouses of a company owned by Cohen and Weinstein, seizing the suspected shipment. The sources said the shipment was small and not worth a lot of money, but "what we are trying to clarify is the trend - whether they were involved in previous shipments or planned future shipments."
The two men denied that the equipment was destined for Iran.
In a rare move, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has decided that Malmab, the Defense Ministry unit responsible for internal security in the defense establishment, be allowed to investigate the affair, even though his predecessor, Elyakim Rubinstein, had ordered the unit dismantled about a year ago on the grounds that there is no justification for any ministry to maintain an independent investigation unit not responsible to the police. Mazuz made the decision in order to advance the investigation.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations and other American agencies are also participating in the inquiry.
On Friday, a 70-year-old American Jew named Leib Kohn was indicted in Bridgeport, Connecticut for allegedly buying components for Hawk missiles and Phantom radars on behalf of partners in Israel. According to the indictment, Israel was merely going to be a way station, with the components ultimately destined for another state, whose name was not mentioned. The American prosecutor, Kevin O'Connor, praised the Israel Police in court for its help with this investigation.
The shipment seized by the Israel Police from the warehouses of Cohen and Weinstein's company in Netanya contained some of the components allegedly purchased by Kohn from the Radio Research International Corporation of Westbury, Connecticut.
The last time Cohen and Weinstein were investigated - in August 2002 on suspicion of trying to smuggle parts for Israeli-made armored personnel carriers to Iran - the Defense Ministry decided to suspend their license to export arms. But following various court hearings and in light of the fact that they were never indicted, their arms dealing license was restored.