Investigation launched into Israeli dronemaker suspected of bombing Armenia

17:02 • 14.11.17



Police have opened a criminal investigation into an Israeli drone manufacturer that allegedly attempted to bomb the Armenian military on behalf of Azerbaijan during a demonstration of one of its unmanned kamikaze aerial vehicles earlier this year.


“An investigation is ongoing against Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd. in regards to a deal with a significant customer,” police said in a statement Tuesday, The Times of Israel reports.


The Israel Police’s Unit of International Crime Investigations, known in Hebrew by its acronym Yahbal, is leading the investigation.


News of the investigation came out on Monday as an Israeli court approved a gag order for the case, limiting the information that can be published about it.


In a statement, Aeronautics said it would “fully cooperate with any examination on any issue and would work to the best of its capabilities so the investigation will be as swift as possible.”


The gag order shows that the company has been under investigation since at least September 4, a few weeks after the initial allegations came out regarding its live-fire demonstration against Armenia.

The company has also reportedly had dealings with the Myanmar military junta, which is accused of ethnic cleansing for its treatment of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority.


In late August, the Defense Ministry Defense Export Controls Agency halted Aeronautics’ export license for its Orbiter 1K model UAV to a “significant customer,” which the company reported to the Israeli stock exchange, as required by law.


According to Aeronautics, the company was poised to make a NIS 71.5 million ($20 million) deal over the next two years with the “significant customer.”


“The company is working to clarify the issue with the Defense Ministry,” Aeronautics said in its statement at the time.


The company noted that the Defense Ministry’s decision only affected the sale of its drone to the “significant customer” and not to other foreign buyers.

 

As a rule, Israeli defense contractors refrain from naming their customers directly. However, it could be understood from the statement that the country in question was Azerbaijan.


The decision to halt the sale came approximately two weeks after a complaint was filed with the ministry saying that the company had, at the request of the Azeris, launched one of its Orbiter 1K model drones at Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.


Colonel Armen Gyozalian of the Armenian army said two soldiers were lightly wounded in the attack on July 7, according to the Armenian defense ministry’s “Hay Zinvor” news outlet.


A copy of the complaint was first leaked to the Maariv newspaper.


According to the report, the firm sent a team to the Azerbaijan capital Baku to demonstrate the unmanned aerial vehicle, which can be outfitted with a small explosive payload, 2.2 to 4.4 pounds (one to two kilograms), and flown into an enemy target on a “suicide” mission.


According to the complaint, while demonstrating the Orbiter 1K system to the Azerbaijani military sometime last month, the company was asked to carry out a live-fire test of the system against an Armenian military position. 





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