Federal officials said today they broke up an arms ring of 17 people, including a retired Israeli general, that allegedly conspired to ship $2.5 billion in warplanes and other munitions to Iran.
The 17 were charged in U.S. District Court with conspiring to sell F-4 and F-5 fighter planes, Python air-to-air missiles, TOW missiles, Skyhawk aircraft and cluster bombs.
The weapons were to have been shipped from Israel and other unspecified countries, according to complaints filed by prosecutors. They did not contend that the Israeli or other governments knew about it.
Shipments Banned by U.S.
There also was no indication that weapons reached Iran, which is waging war with neighboring Iraq. The United States has banned arms shipments to Iran since Americans were taken hostage in Tehran in 1979.
The complaints alleged five separate conspiracies and said nine men were arrested in the case Monday, five in Bermuda and four in New York. One was said to have been described during negotiations as a retired Israeli general.
The key figure in the case was identified as Samuel Evans, 50, an American lawyer living in London who allegedly located three groups of people who could obtain U.S. arms abroad, along with the necessary shipping documents.
Many of the weapons apparently were to have been sent from Israel under shipping documents saying they were being sold to Greece, Pakistan and other unidentified countries, the complaints charged.
Planned to Sell F-4s
The four men arrested in New York allegedly were conspiring to sell more than $300 million worth of goods, including 15 F-4 aircraft, 10 spare F-4 engines and 200 M-8 tank engines, the complaints said.
They identified the four as Nickos Minardos of Beverly Hills, Calif.; A. R. Flearmoy of Stanton, England; Ralph G. Kopka of West Germany, and Hermann Moll, a West German who gave a London address.
The retired Israeli general was identified as Abraham Bar-Am and described in court papers as having served 30 years in the Israeli army. He is currently in the reserve officer corps serving in an advisory position for the Northern Army Command in Israel. He was arrested in Bermuda with Evans, William Northrop, an American who gave a Tel Aviv address, and Israelis Guri Eisenberg and Israel Eisenberg.
They were charged with conspiring to export restricted military equipment.
The eight other defendants were still at large.