Israel Imprisons French Consulate Staffer for Smuggling Weapons to West Bank

Romain Franck admitted that he repeatedly exploited his diplomatic immunity as an employee of the consulate to ferry arms from Gaza to the West Bank in his car

File photo: Romain Franck (C) and Palestinian Mohamed Katout (L) appear in court to face charges of smuggling guns from Gaza, Be'er Sheva, March 19, 2018.
AFP

An employee of the French consulate in Jerusalem who was convicted of smuggling arms from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank was sentenced on Monday to seven years in prison. Romain Franck was sentenced as part of a plea bargain under which he confessed to having received 26,000 shekels ($7,200) in exchange for smuggling 30 guns. The Be’er Sheva District Court also fined him 30,000 shekels.

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Franck admitted that he repeatedly exploited his diplomatic immunity as an employee of the consulate to ferry arms from Gaza to the West Bank in his car. He was convicted of illegally importing and transporting weapons and of aggravated fraud.

“The defendant’s cynical abuse of his position as a consulate employee also has the potential to undermine the fabric of relations between the state and the consular employees who serve it,” Judge Daniel Ben-Tolila wrote in his sentencing decision. Franck’s actions might result, for instance, in more stringent security checks of diplomatic vehicles entering and leaving Gaza and the West Bank. the judge noted.

Franck began working at the consulate in January 2017. He worked as a driver, transporting diplomats and assisted with security. He generally smuggled the guns only when he was driving French diplomats, to reduce the chances of his car being searched. He was arrested in February 2018 and charged along with five other people. Four of the five were convicted and sentenced to jail terms ranging from two and a half to five years. The prosecution of the fifth is still in progress.