Former minister Gonen Segev allegedly approached the Sri Lankan army and offered to provide it with Israeli weapons systems at a cheaper rate than they were paying, the Defense Ministry confirmed yesterday.
Segev also proposed that he be appointed the head of a Sri Lankan mission to Israel to acquire the weapons, and offered in return to use his influence as a former minister to get Israel to help apprehend the heads of the Tamil rebel organization.
Reports about Segev's activities in Sri Lanka reached the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, and the head of the department for exporting security assistance, Yossi Ben-Hanan, met with Segev and warned him he was contravening the law.
A senior ministry source said that Segev's behavior in Sri Lanka, and particularly the impression he created that they were being overcharged for weapons systems, had caused damage to Israel's security industries and reputation.
Segev met with Sri Lankan army officials several times over the past few years. In May 2003 he traveled there and met with the commander of the air force, making him an offer to get cheaper prices for Sri Lanka because of his ministerial contacts in the past. Sri Lankan sources then investigated Segev's past with their Israeli counterparts and reported on their talks. Details were also conveyed to the Israeli military attache in Thailand, Yehuda Shoshani, who is in charge of ties with Sri Lanka as well. Shoshani reported this to Ben-Hanan.
Ben-Hanan subsequently met with Segev and clarified that he could not act without an export permit or without ministry consent. He told him to stop his contacts and to apply for a permit in the accepted fashion.
The ministry spokesperson, Rachel Ashkenazy, said yesterday in response: "We received a warning that Dr. Gonen Segev was trying to export security material to Sri Lanka. Since Segev did not have a permit as required... he received a detailed explanation on which papers were needed by an entrepreneur who tries to act in the field of security exports... Since we did not receive any complaint or additional warning on the subject, we did not act further, beyond the warning he had already received.
"Segev does not have any permits in the field and to the best of our knowledge is not active in it," she added. The spokesperson stressed that Segev had not actually made contact with any manufacturers or exporters, and that no concrete deals had been worked out. If, however, new information was received, the ministry would investigate, she said.