Two remanded for selling arms to Iran
By Margot Dudkevitch
PETAH TIKVA (February 3) - The two Israeli businessmen suspected of being involved in the sale of Canadian military equipment to the Iran during 1996-'97, were remanded yesterday by Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court.
Key suspect Eli Cohen, 50, was remanded for eight days, and his relative and business partner Avihai Weinstein, 32, for five days. Police said the two assisted an enemy at war with Israel, which is punishable by death or a life sentence.
Cohen was arrested in the US in 1992, suspected of selling Hawk missiles and other military equipment to Iran. He was sentenced to six months' house arrest and then returned to Israel, where he was sentenced to three month's probation and fined in a plea bargain, possibly because the authorities were hesitant to reveal sources and people involved in the affair abroad.
Judge Noga Ohad noted in her decision that "from the material I reviewed, it appears there have been attempts to coordinate testimony and erase evidence, which can be perceived as obstruction of justice."
While the two denied the charges, claiming they had no knowledge that the equipment was destined for Iran, the police claimed that the two sold 40 Canadian armored personnel carriers, APC engines, and other parts to Iran for millions of dollars. The deals and transactions involved firms in Britain, Holland, Germany, and Belgium. Police also suspect that Cohen had ties with a South Korean arms dealer known to supply Iran. To hide the transactions, the equipment was shipped from Germany to Holland, on to Britain and to Singapore before reaching its final destination.
Defense attorney Haim Misgav told the court that Cohen acted as an intermediary for Dutch and British firms and had no knowledge of the equipment's final destination. He claimed that the military equipment was Canadian surplus that had been out of use for many years.
Police said that evidence suggests otherwise.
Speaking to reporters, Cohen said: "I didn't sell anything to any country. I mediated a deal between one European country and another. I didn't purchase or sell anything."
Police also confiscated three computers from the suspects' company in Binyamina and asked the court to extend the period they remain in police possession for 21 days, claiming that it would take some time to examine the material on the computers' hard drives. Ohad agreed on the condition that the suspects produce three hard drives that would be copied by police and handed back to them for use in their company's operations.
Police are also examining possible sales of a larger scope. On Sunday, police investigators from two of the European countries will join local detectives in the investigation.
TEL AVIV, Israel, March 21 (PhilWire) -- With the passage of the new "Five Strikes And You're Out" Law, Eli Cohen and Avihai Weinstein were taken aloft in an IDF helicopter this morning and released.