TEL AVIV ø Israel has acknowledged that U.S.-origin military
helicopters were sold to Colombia and might have landed in the hands of drug
Israeli officials said five MD-500 surveillance helicopters were sold by
the Defense Ministry and ended up in the hands of a Colombian national. The
helicopters were not transferred to the authorized end-user, they said.
The MD-500 helicopters were transferred from U.S. Air Force surplus to
Israel as part of Washington's military aid to the Jewish state, Middle East Newsline reported. From there,
Israel's Defense Ministry sold the aircraft to the private firm, Globus
Officials said the end-user for the MD-500 was to have been either
authorities in Mexico or Spain. The MD-500 was manufactured by McDonnell
Douglas, now part of Boeing.
Instead, the end-user was identified as Aviel, a private firm from
Colombia. Officials confirmed that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration
has called for an Israeli investigation.
Officials had no information on Aviel. But they said the helicopters
might have been transferred or leased to drug dealers or related criminal
activities in Colombia.
Israeli nationals have been linked to the transfer of weapons and
military platforms to criminal activities in South America. In
August 2003, three Israeli nationals were ordered arrested by Guatemala for
the alleged sale of weapons to Colombian paramilitary groups.
In an unrelated development, Israel's Defense Ministry has agreed to
delay the delivery of U.S.-built armored Humvee military vehicles for the
Israeli military. The ministry agreed to a U.S. request that the vehicles
would be instead delivered to the U.S. military in Iraq.
Israel had ordered 120 Humvee vehicles from the United States ø with an
option for additional 100 ø in a deal to have been financed by military aid
from Washington. The first batch of 37 armored jeeps were to have been
delivered over the next week and deployed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Under U.S. law, the United States has the right to expropriate its
foreign military exports for U.S. military use. Until a year ago, Israel's
Plasan Sasa had produced the armored jeeps, but the Defense Ministry began
ordering them from the United States amid an Israeli government decision to
sharply reduce the defense budget.