TEL AVIV (Apr. 22)
Defense and Foreign Ministry officials have disclaimed any knowledge of how Israeli-made weapons came to be found on the estate of a Colombian drug trafficker shot to death by police there last December.
According to a Defense Ministry spokesman, the weapons were sent legitimately to a sovereign state, which promised not to transfer them to a third party without Israel’s approval.
The spokesman refused to name the state.
Newspapers in Colombia and other sources reported late last week that the Israeli arms were smuggled to Colombian drug lords from Antigua and Barbuda, an island nation in the eastern Caribbean that is part of the British Commonwealth.
The Antiguan deputy prime minister said last week that light weapons were shipped from Haifa to Antigua in April 1989 and from there to Santa Marta, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia.
Israeli officials insisted they had no knowledge “how these weapons were transferred to private hands in Colombia.”
According to a Foreign Ministry official, “While Israel would never allow such deals, no country can possibly guarantee that shipments of weapons it makes to legitimate clients will later remain in the possession of the customer.”
Colombian police found 213 Israeli rifles and more than $3 million in cash when they confiscated the farm owned by the late drug lord, Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, military leader of the Medellin cocaine cartel.
Colombian newspapers reported that ousted Panamanian strongman Manuel Noreiga and senior Antinguan army officers may have been involved in smuggling arms to drug traffickers.
Noriega is in federal custody in the United States, awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges.