TEL AVIV (Aug. 30)
An Israeli firm under investigation for illicit dealings with paramilitary groups in Colombia was denied a license by the Defense Ministry two years ago to export arms and security expertise to that country, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin disclosed Wednesday.
Rabin was referring to Hod Hahanit, a company headed by Yair Klein, a lieutenant colonel in the Israel Defense Force reserves. Klein admits he provided military training and security know-how to Colombians, apparently without benefit of the requisite licenses.
He and his associates at Hod Hahanit were questioned Monday and Tuesday by the police criminal investigation division.
Klein told the news media earlier that he helped train security guards for Colombian farmers and ranchers plagued by cattle rustlers.
But he denied an NBC News allegation last week that he trained assassins for the Colombian drug cartel.
The case of Klein and Hod Hahanit, which means Spearhead, has opened the door on an apparently widespread but relatively little-known area of Israeli enterprise involving about 800 individuals, mainly retired IDF officers.
They earn their living as mercenaries and exporters of military technology and knowledge, who train government or non-governmental military organizations in foreign countries and middlemen in the international arms trade.
Their activities are legal but subject to tight control and supervision by the Defense Ministry and sometimes the Inner Cabinet.
ADVISORY ISSUED TWO YEARS AGO
Rabin, who spoke to reporters while visiting the West Bank city of Nablus, said he doubted there was any country in the world that had rules and regulations as stringent as Israel’s governing arms dealings.
Colombia is an especially sensitive area now because the drug cartel is waging open warfare on its government.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry disclosed Wednesday that it issued an “advisory warning” two years ago cautioning Israeli companies and individuals doing business with Colombia about political instability there.
They were advised to refrain from entering deals in Colombia and to exercise extreme care if they did because of the uncertain situation.
Rabin said the defense establishment warned Hod Hahanit in writing four months ago to desist from its activities in Colombia.
He said the company replied that it was doing nothing illegal and in any event planned to terminate its Colombian operations.
Meanwhile, Davar’s economic correspondent accused some Israeli arms agents Wednesday of evading their income tax.
The writer claimed that the agents sell weapons through various intermediaries and transfer part of their commissions abroad, without informing the Treasury or tax authorities.
Commissions paid by the security industries to their agents are said to exceed $200 million, part of which is transferred to foreign bank accounts owned by intermediaries who hold foreign citizenship, Davar said.