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Swiss Engineer on Trial for Selling Secret Plans of Mirage Engine to Israel

April 20, 1971
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Alfred Frauenknecht, a 44-year-old engineer, went on trial here today for selling Israel the secret plans for a Mirage jet engine manufactured for a Swiss firm. The trial opened in the Federal Criminal Court, Switzerland’s highest penal court where Frauenknecht pleaded guilty to the facts but not guilty of having committed a breach of law. The defense attorney, Manfred Kuhn, said he would ask for acquittal on grounds that his client had acted to help a “friend in trouble,” namely the State of Israel which was denied delivery of 50 Mirage jets it had bought in France by the arms embargo imposed by the late President Charles de Gaulle. However, Frauenknecht did not deny that he accepted $200,000 in Swiss france from Israeli agents for the Mirage 3-C engine plans. He is charged with economic and military espionage which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment at hard labor. Frauenknecht is a former employe of the Sulzer firm. He told the court today of his first meeting with Israelis in 1966 at a study group in Paris organized by the Snecma Works which made the “Atar” jet engine.

The engine was supplied to Sulzer which manufactured Mirage 3-C jets for the Swiss Airforce under license from the Dassault firm of France. The defendant told the five-man tribunal that on that and subsequent occasions his Israeli “friends” appealed to him for help during a “difficult period.” He said that in April, 1968 he met with Israeli Brig, Gen. Menachem Kain at the Ambassador Hotel in Zurich and was begged by the general “not to leave his friends in a lurch.” Frauenknecht said he failed in an attempt to get his immediate superior, a Swiss Airforce Col. named Hans Schmidt to “exchange information” with the Israeli. As a result, he told the court, he passed on to Israel some 200,000 documents and blue-prints which described in detail how to build the “Atar” engine. All of the documents were originals, he said, and were smuggled out of Switzerland in 24 crates. They were picked up by Israeli agents in West Germany. Frauenknecht said that old newspapers were burned in their stead in the Sulzer factory incinerator.

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