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Israeli arrested in alleged US arms export scheme

  • Article by: JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
  • Associated Press
  • May 15, 2014 - 4:50 PM

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — An Israeli citizen has been arrested on federal charges in Connecticut that he conspired to illegally ship military parts from the United States to Iran, government prosecutors announced Thursday.

Eliyahu Cohen, 63, of Bnei Brak, Israel, was arrested Monday in his native country on charges of violating arms export laws and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The U.S. is seeking his extradition.

Cohen's attorney in Israel could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The case stems from a long-term investigation into an alleged illegal network of military parts purchasers and brokers.

Cohen and his companies were charged in 2007 in Connecticut with conspiring to violate arms export laws. A grand jury returned an indictment last year adding charges.

"The U.S. Attorney's office in Connecticut is committed to working with our law enforcement partners here and abroad to ensure that sensitive military items built in the United States do not fall into the wrong hands," U.S. Attorney Deirdre Daly said. "Willful and repeated violations of our export laws will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Prosecutors say that in 2012 and 2013, Cohen conspired to ship F-4C and F-14 aircraft fighter jet replacement parts from Israel to Iran, via Greece, without U.S. government authorization.

Authorities also allege that between 2000 and 2004, Cohen arranged for the export of Hawk Missile System components from the U.S. The medium-range, surface-to-air missile system is designed to destroy missiles in flight. It is no longer used by the United States but is used by Iran, authorities say.

If convicted of all counts, Cohen faces up to 130 years in prison and a fine of up to $7.5 million.

Bruce Foucart, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in Boston, said one of the agency's top priorities is to prevent foreign countries from illegally obtaining U.S. military products and sensitive technology.

"The scope and magnitude of this case illustrates just how real that threat is," he said.

© 2014 Star Tribune