The employee of the French Consulate in Jerusalem charged with smuggling dozens of weapons from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank in official diplomatic vehicles has admitted he received $12,000 for the smuggling, of which he says he wasted $4,000 in Tel Aviv nightclubs.
During questioning, Roman Frank, a driver for the French Consulate who carried an official French passport, confessed to the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service that he and the Palestinians who worked with him smuggled weapons six or seven times from Gaza to the West Bank, though he is being charged with five such attempts.
The last of the smuggling attempts had gone awry when a suitcase filled with guns was “stolen” from Frank’s vehicle. At first, Frank said he suspected one of his Palestinian accomplices who also worked for the consulate and is known as Abu Zaki. Frank later confessed that he let Abu Zaki steal the weapons – and afterwards discussed the possibility of selling them with him.
Frank also claimed throughout his entire interrogation that he was surprised by the timing of the theft, because he had expected to carry it out just a short time before he returned to France. He also said he did not know what happened to the guns. “Abu Zaki told me that he would handle the sale of the guns and I could receive $150,000, and I said that I want at least $100,000 to buy for myself a house in France without loans,” Frank told investigators.
Frank also told his interrogators that he had been drawn to Islam at a certain stage in his life and wanted to marry a Palestinian woman. In recent years he stopped eating pork, but denied any connection between his actions and religion.
Frank began working at the consulate in January 2017 as a driver for French diplomats and helped out in security work. He smuggled the weapons when he drove other diplomats to reduce the chances the vehicles would be searched. He also told interrogators that he tried to carry out the smuggling once every three weeks when the head of the Institut Francais in Gaza, Pierre Chevalier, was present in the compound in Gaza and if Frank had been arrested, Chevalier could have been suspected to an equal degree. The Institut is a French public institution, founded by the French Foreign Ministry, to promote French culture, language and commerce around the world.
Frank was arrested in February. He changed the versions of his story many times during the investigation and his first polygraph examination found him to be not telling the truth on many questions. Frank later confessed that he had not revealed many details about the number of weapons he smuggled and his role in the crimes. Before he began smuggling weapons to the West Bank, he had smuggled antiquities, gold and coins from Gaza to the West Bank, he said.
An East Jerusalem resident who worked as a security guard at the consulate was also arrested as well as Gazans who were illegally in the West Bank. Some of those involved also engaged in smuggling cash from Gaza to the West Bank.
Frank is said to have smuggled in some 70 guns and two rifles, said the Shin Bet after his arrest. He received the weapons from a Palestinian who worked at a French cultural center in Gaza, the Shin Bet said, adding that they were then transferred to an individual in the West Bank who sold them to arms dealers.
The Shin Bet also said that the smuggling effort involved Palestinians from Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and that the Shin Bet investigation has found that the weapons were transferred into Israel by Frank via the Erez border crossing, between Gaza and Israel, using official consular vehicles that weren’t as meticulously checked at the border.
The investigation of the French consular employees was carried out in coordination with the Foreign Ministry, which kept the French authorities apprised of developments, the Shin Bet said.