For First Time, Israeli Convicted of Unauthorized Arms Exports

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A communication device offered for sale on eBay. Credit: Screeshot

An Israeli who illegally exported army surplus communication devices, some of them encrypted, has been sentenced to four and a half months of community service in a plea bargain.

The case was the first indictment and conviction under the 8-year-old Defense Export Control Law.

The man, an engineer from Rehovot, is a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces’ Communications Corps and a former employee at a maker of communication devices. From 2004 to 2013 he acquired communication devices and spare parts from defense subcontractors, including companies that contract to destroy decommissioned devices.

The Defense Export Control Law, which went into effect in December 2007 after passing earlier that year, aims to increase government supervision of military exports. It followed the crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations after an Israeli attempt to sell the Phalcon airborne early warning and control system to China without U.S. approval.

A new Defense Ministry department called the Defense Export Control Division was established to implement the law.

Under the law, prospective defense exporters must obtain a special license to engage in defense marketing; a separate defense export license is a prerequisite for selling military equipment abroad.

The engineer was charged with operating without either of these licenses, despite knowing that the goods had a military nature and that some of them were supposed to be destroyed.

According to prosecutor Dan Eldad, the devices were sold on eBay in multiple transactions equaling at least $200,000, without Defense Ministry oversight and without the seller knowing who the buyers were. In most transactions, the seller falsified the shipping orders to avoid high customs fees.

Some devices sold had advanced encryption capabilities, features that could prevent Israeli defense officials from discovering the new users.

“The defendant exposed the IDF to a security risk and endangered Israel’s vital interests, foreign relations and international commitments,” the charges read.

The defendant admitted to violating two provisions of the Defense Export Control Law. In addition to the community service, which was commuted from custody for the same four and a half months, the defendant was ordered to pay a 70,000-shekel ($18,100) fine.

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