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Monday, May 22, 2006

Arrests made for illegal drone sales to China

The Jerusalem Post reports this afternoon that police have detained for further questioning the CEO and owners of Amit - a major Israeli factory, for allegedly selling unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV) to the Chinese government, Army Radio reported.

According to the Jerusalem Post:

The owners of the factory, which deals in imports and exports, were suspected of selling the sensitive vehicles, often used for aerial reconnaissance but that can also function as unmanned assault vehicles, without the mandatory permits from government security agencies.

The suspects also allegedly leaked security information to sources in Asia.

Police suspect that in order to circumvent legal obstacles, the factory owners forged documents "authorizing" the export of the UAVs and additional equipment.

You may recall that there was a dispute between Israel and the US over aircraft sales to China two years ago. Read the whole thing. There is undoubtedly more to come on this one.

HaAretz has additional details:
The company and its owner are suspected of having transferred an RPV [Remotely Piloted Vehicle CiJ] to a foreign nation, ostensibly for the purpose of displaying it at a weapons show. The transfer was allegedly carried out without a permit from the Defense Ministry.

Police suspect that the RPV was ultimately intended to be shipped to China, along with additional RPVs produced by Amit.

The deal under investigation was in the range of several million dollars.

In 2002, Amit signed signed an agreement with a firm in the foreign nation for joint development of an RPV. The internal security chief of the Defense Ministry suspected that the intended goal of the RPVs was China.

Ensuing checks led to a joint investigation of the Defense Ministry, the police national fraud squad and customs officials.

The issue of security imports to China is of particular sensitivity. In recent years, there have been revelations of RPV export to China without the permission from the United States.

The matter prompted a crisis in relations with the United States, and in its wake, it was decided to establish a special branch within the Defense Ministry for defense exports.

Until recently, the Amit company employed some 60 workers, selling its products to Europe and South America.

Following the investigation, however, the number of workers dropped to 20, and the Defense Ministry rescinded the permits which had allowed the company to conduct sales negotiations and to export defense-related equipment.

Read the whole thing. Obviously, a lot of the details are missing.


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