TEL AVIV (May. 9)
The Defense Ministry produced documents Wednesday to prove that a $200,000 Israeli arms shipment to Antigua last year was ordered by the government of that Caribbean island nation, including guarantees that the weapons would not find their way into the hands of a third party.
The documents, consisting of photocopied letters and facsimile machine messages, were studied by a four-man investigative team sent here by the Antiguan government to try to find out how the arms wound up in the arsenal of a leading Colombian drug trafficker.
The probe is being conducted by Patrick Lewis, Antigua’s minister-councilor to the United Nations, and three American lawyers, E. Lawrence Barcella, Conan Louis and Ed Seibert.
One of the documents is a letter bearing Antigua’s coat of arms and the signature of Vere Bird Jr., identified as Antiguan defense minister.
The government of Antigua and Barbuda, as it is officially known, denied Monday that it had “ordered or paid for such arms.”
The letter that Israel’s Defense Ministry produced Wednesday promises that the weapons “are contemplated to be used by the Antiguan forces and will not be passed, sold or given to any third party.”
But the 500 Uzi submachine guns, Galil assault rifles and other deadly weapons, including shoulder-fired missile-launchers, were discovered on the estate of Jose Rodriguez Gacha, a major Colombian cocaine dealer, after he was killed in a shoot-out with police in December 1989 — six months after they were delivered to Antigua.
ANTIGUAN CHIEF OF STAFF LINKED
Israel admitted that the serial numbers provided by the Colombian authorities matched the weapons sent to Antigua. But it claims to be completely in the dark about how the shipment reached Colombia.
The investigators from Antigua spent about four hours Tuesday interviewing retired Israel Defense Force Lt. Col. Yair Klein, head of Hod Hahanit (Spearhead), a company licensed to export military equipment and know-how overseas.
Klein is currently under investigation for illegally supplying arms and training to mercenaries working for the Colombian drug cartel. He denies the charges.
The Antiguan team also spent two hours Tuesday with Zvi Tenney, head of the Foreign Ministry’s Latin American division.
Tenney had some questions of his own, such as exactly who ordered the weapons on behalf of the Antiguan government and who authorized it.
The order seems to have been initiated by Lt. Col. Clyde Worker, Antigua’s chief of staff. Subsequent contacts allegedly were made through Maurice Sarfati, a former Israeli living in Miami who has a ranch in Antigua.
Sarfati is reported to have approached Israel Military Industries, manufacturers of the weapons, with a document appointing him “special envoy of the (Antiguan) Ministry of External Affairs.”
The Antiguan investigators do not appear to believe that Klein acted as a private citizen. They are reportedly probing for an official Israeli connection with the transfer of the weapons from Antigua to Colombia.