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Lawmaker Says Israel Not Involved Improperly in Military Equipment Sales by U.S. Firms to Mideast Na

Rep. Les Aspin (D.Wise.) told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Israel was in no way involved in alleged wrong-doing in the sales of military equipment by American corporations to Middle Eastern countries. Aspin issued a statement yesterday that according to Pentagon documents. American companies have paid $18.7 million to middlemen in four Middle Eastern countries in connection with weapons deals in the past two years. The countries he named were Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and Israel.

Regarding Israel, Aspin cited a reported payment of $300,000 by the Raytheon Corp. to Middlesex International in connection with the sale of missiles to Israel. He told the JTA today that Middlesex was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Raytheon, whose headquarters are in Lexington, Mass., and that the $300,000 was an internal transfer, a corporate transfer of funds, presumably for certain services the subsidiary performed for the parent company as part of its sales program to Israel. He said that he found absolutely nothing improper or wrong in these circumstances and that the Israeli case was very different from the others.

(Reacting to Aspin’s initial statement, the Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce said today that it had no knowledge of a firm called Middlesex International registered in Israel.) The Israeli Embassy in Washington told the JTA that it knew nothing of the Middlesex case cited by Aspin.

OPEN INVITATION TO CORRUPTION

The Wisconsin lawmaker noted that the payments associated with sales to some Arab countries ran into many millions of dollars and raised serious questions that either agents received excessive fees or the money was illegally diverted. “These multi-million dollar fees for arms deals are an open invitation to corruption, graft and bribery,” he said in his statement released yesterday.

The largest amount, $8,886,000, went to a company operated by a Saudi Arabian businessman, Adnan Khashoggi in connection with the sale of aircraft to Saudi Arabia by the Northrop Co. Khashoggi had allegedly passed the money on to Saudi generals to persuade them to buy Northrop aircraft. Khashoggi said he bribed no one but kept the money himself.

Aspin also cited a $4.5 million payment to Ghassan Shaker by the Vinnell Corp. of Los Angeles in connection with a contract to train the Saudi Arabian national guard; a $1,381,000 payment to Fifafi Enterprises; and $3,4 million to the National Contracting Co. by Raytheon for the sale of missile systems to Kuwait. Raytheon is the manufacturer of the “Hawk” anti-aircraft missile which the U.S. is supplying to Jordan. Aspin said the FMS Corp. paid $200,000 to Shahdah S. Twal for the sale of vehicles to Jordan.

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