Over 20 Israelis, including former employees of Israeli defense firms, have been investigated for illegally selling weapons to U.S. rival in Asia.
Most details of the investigation, including which country is involved, are under a gag order. Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the case was highly sensitive, as it could affect Israel's foreign relations and lead to a crisis between superpowers.
According to a statement by Israel Police on Thursday, an investigation together with the Shin Bet security service found that the suspects "developed, manufactured, tested and sold armed loitering missiles to an Asian country."
- Congressional report: Israel arms sales to China concern U.S.
- U.S.-Israel crisis deepens over defense exports to China
- Netanyahu allows Israeli arms dealers to fly to India, despite COVID lockdown
- The real deal for Israel and the UAE is weapons
The suspects, the Shin Bet said, received instructions from "elements" in the Asian country, in return for significant amounts of money and other benefits. The contacts were maintained clandestinely. Some officials in the Shin Bet said there was concern that knowledge about the missiles could reach enemy nations, as the country to which they were sold has ties with them.
"This affair illustrates the potential damage to national security inherent in deals illegally carried out by Israeli citizens with foreign elements, including the fear that this technology could spill over to countries that are hostile to Israel," the Shin Bet said.
The Israelis are suspected of national security offenses, breaching arms exports laws, money laundering and other financial offenses.
The investigation into the case began in late 2019, when intelligence reached the Defense Ministry's security department, which forwarded it to the Shin Bet and the police's fraud unit.