Israeli Arms Dealer to Be Extradited to U.S. for Violating Embargo on Iran

The arms dealer is charged with exporting U.S.-made warplane parts without a permit and violating American laws barring commerce with the Islamic Republic. In his defense, the man claims all the parts he sold were junk.

Iranian fighter jets fly during a military parade ceremony outside of Tehran, September 22, 2009.
Vahid Salemi, AP

An Israeli arms deal who sold fighter jet parts to Iran will be extradited to the United States, Israel’s Supreme Court decided on Sunday.

The dealer, whose name was put under a gag order by the court even though it has been published in the past, was charged in the United States with having exported American-made parts to Iran over two time periods. During the first, from 2000 to 2004, three American middlemen were involved in the trade, the indictment said. During the second, from 2012 to 2013, the parts were sent from Israel to Iran via Greece.

The spare parts were intended for Iranian warplanes. The Israeli is charged with exporting the U.S.-made parts without a permit and violating American laws barring commerce with Iran.

In his defense, the arms dealer claims that everything he sold to Iran was junk.

The Americans submitted an extradition request for the man in July 2014. About a year ago, the Jerusalem District Court upheld his extradition, but he appealed to the Supreme Court. On Sunday, the Supreme Court approved the extradition, which still requires the approval of the justice minister.

One of the arm dealer’s arguments against extradition was that in Israel, violations of defense export regulations usually result in fines, not criminal charges. The state didn’t dispute this claim, but said it was trying to turn over “a new leaf” regarding these types of extraditions.

In his ruling, Justice Isaac Amit concurred that Israel “has a very lenient enforcement policy compared to that of the United States for offenses of the type attributed to the appellant.” Nevertheless, he said, even if the punishment usually consists of fines rather than criminal charges, it would be incorrect to argue that the law hasn’t previously been enforced.

In fact, the appellant himself was fined about 500,000 shekels ($130,000) by the Defense Ministry last year for illegally exporting spare parts for armored personal carriers.

The extradition request included an affidavit from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which described how the American authorities began investigating the Israeli along with another man in 2004. The other man was eventually indicted and agreed to turn state’s evidence. He then reestablished contact with the Israeli, who proposed that he procure spare warplane parts for resale.

The state witness claimed the Israeli knew the parts were destined for Iran. Not only did the Israeli tell him so explicitly, the witness said, but some of the parts — those for F-14 fighters — could not have been intended for another country: Since 2012, the Iranian air force is the only air force in the world that still had F-14s in service.

Last year, the Defense Ministry found 11 violations of the export control laws, almost triple the four violations discovered in 2014. But the ministry’s export supervision department consists of only three inspectors, and critics charge that this isn’t nearly enough to supervise Israel’s massive defense exports, which total billions of dollars every year.

Last November marked the first time an Israeli was convicted in a criminal case on charges of exporting defense products without the proper Defense Ministry license. A court found that the man had sold hundreds of surplus Israel Defense Forces radios on eBay. He received an eight-month suspended sentence and was required to perform four and a half months of community service.