Two Israeli arms dealers, Avichai Weinstein and Eli Cohen, who according to Greek media are suspected of trying to sell spare parts for F-4 Phantom fighter jets to Iran, have been suspected of such acts in the past.
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In 2002, a shipment of spare parts for Armored Personnel Carriers was found in Germany with a final destination listed as Thailand. The German government seized the shipment at the Hamburg port, where it was revealed that its final location was actually Iran. Defense Ministry investigations found that the party behind the shipment was an Israeli company with an export license, owned by Weinstein and Cohen. Yesterday the military censor allowed the publication of the company’s name: R.S.P. Rebuilt Spare Parts.
In the past, Weinstein and Cohen, ultra-Orthodox residents of Bnei Brak, had been suspected of other attempts to export weapons to Iran by converting spare parts for civilian use and shipping through middlemen in the Far East. In 2002, Haaretz reported that the prosecution encountered difficulties with the evidence against them and was forced to cancel impending indictments.
Greek media last week reported that the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations agency and Greece’s Financial and Economic Crime Unit were following up the current allegations against Weinstein and Cohen. According to a Greek report, spare fighter jet parts were found in shipping containers on Greek soil in similar incidents in both 2012 and 2013. The report noted that the shipment left Givat Ada, near Binyamina, and its final destination was Iran. The shipment, according to the report, was carried out by a Greek company names “Tassos Karras Sa,” but Greek investigators believe this is a straw company created by Israeli weapons dealers.
Israel Police’s Lahav 433 crime-fighting unit reported that currently, Israel has not detained any suspects in conjunction with the case. “The issue is known,” said a unit representative. “It is against our policy to release details of Israel Police cooperation in investigations being conducted by foreign law enforcement agencies.”
This is apparently the sixth time that weapons dealer Cohen has been suspected of selling weapons to Iran. In 2004, Weinstein and Cohen were suspected of selling Hawk missiles and spare Phantom parts to the Islamic Republic through various middlemen. Then, the arms had been purchased in the U.S. and were found in Cohen and Weinstein’s possession. The arms were discovered during a police raid on a storage unit used by their company.
Weinstein denied that the arms were bound for Iran.
In 2013, dozens of Israeli companies that export arms and military technology were suspected of violating the military exports law. According to the department of military exports, 172 suspicions were recorded last year, compared to 112 in 2012.The Defense Ministry has also been suspicious of such a trend, and Meir Shalit, then head of the military export supervision unit, wrote to such companies warning them against violating export laws.
Supervision of weapons dealers who serve as middlemen between two countries − even countries regarded by Israel as friendly − is lacking. Defense Ministry officials have admitted in the past that there is a serious problem with supervision, which is based largely on reports filed by the companies themselves and authorities in other countries.