Ten Israelis to be charged with producing and smuggling cruise missiles to China

Among the serious security offenses: testing the missiles near inhabited areas in Israel, endangering lives.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Ten people in three Israeli defense companies will undergo a pre-indictment hearing on suspicion of having illegally exported to China cruise missiles in a deal worth millions, the Financial Crimes Department of the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) announced Monday.

The investigation, which began almost two years ago, focused on Ephraim Menashe, the owner of Solar Sky, a missile manufacturing company, as the alleged mastermind behind the illicit sale. The SAO believes that with the help of the owners of a security consulting company, he made a deal with Chinese firms who were competing for a contract with their country’s military. Menashe then allegedly brought into the deal the owners of a third company, Inokon, which produces intelligence-collecting UAVs.

According to the prosecutor’s office, these suspects and others were responsible for manufacturing all the necessary components, testing the completed products, and smuggling dozens of them into China under the guise of being an innocuous import.

Among the serious security charges against the ten are the illegal sale of weapons, violations of the Defense Export Control Law, and money laundering – for lying about the source of the hefty income from the sale. Also reportedly included is the charge of endangering human life, as the missiles were allegedly test-flown near residential areas in Israel.

All exports of military items and technology are strictly overseen by the Defense Ministry, to ensure that such sales will not end up damaging Israel’s security or international standing. Sales to China are especially sensitive, as the United States does not like to see advanced technology go to its superpower rival. Israel has reportedly committed to getting permission from Washington before exporting military products to the Asian giant.

Menashe is a well-known figure in the defense industry, having founded a few private defense-related companies after being the director of training and chief pilot for unmanned aerial vehicles at Israel Aerospace Industries.

His lawyer, Adv. Adi Keidar, expressed confidence in his client’s innocence, saying that as soon as the SAO hands over the material it has, his team will be able “to convince the prosecution to refrain from filing the indictment.” And if the case does go to court, “what remains of the suspicions will end in nothing.”

The SAO made clear in its statement that the Chinese have not used these illegally-gained weapons.