Po­lice launch probe of drone man­u­fac­turer

Jerusalem Post - - NEWS - • By DANIEL K. EISENBUD and Globes

Po­lice on Tues­day said they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­leged cor­rup­tion by the Is­raeli drone man­u­fac­turer Aero­nau­tics Ltd. in con­nec­tion with an un­named “sig­nif­i­cant client.”

De­tails of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­main un­clear due to a gag order.

The com­pany is­sued a brief state­ment af­ter the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was an­nounced, say­ing it “will co­op­er­ate fully with any ex­am­i­na­tion of any mat­ter, and will do its best to en­sure that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be as quick as pos­si­ble.”

Since its found­ing in 1997, the Yavne-based com­pany headed by CEO Col. (res.) Amos Mathan, has sold un­manned ae­rial sys­tems and ad­vanced in­tel­li­gence sys­tems to more than 45 de­fense, mil­i­tary and home­land se­cu­rity com­pa­nies on five con­ti­nents.

In Au­gust, the De­fense Min­istry tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended Aero­nau­tics Ltd.’s li­cense to ex­port Or­biter 1K UAVs to Azer­bai­jan af­ter one of its drones tar­geted an Ar­me­nian army po­si­tion dur­ing a live July demon­stra­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint, when two of the com­pany’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to the at­tack by the “sui­cide drone,” se­nior com­pany of­fi­cials con­tin­ued with the demon­stra­tion and the UAV ex­ploded sev­eral dozen me­ters from the po­si­tion. No ca­su­al­ties were re­ported.

Aero­nau­tics Ltd. de­nied any wrong­do­ing, stat­ing that the com­pany op­er­ates in strict com­pli­ance with ap­provals from the De­fense Ex­port Con­trol Agency and that op­er­a­tional use is solely au­tho­rized by the client.

“Aero­nau­tics never con­ducts demon­stra­tions on live tar­gets, and this is also true in the case in ques­tion,” the com­pany said.

Al­though Azer­bai­jan was not cited in the lat­est probe, de­fense in­dus­try sources es­ti­mate that 20% of Aero­nau­tics Ltd.’s sales are to that coun­try, in­deed mak­ing it a “sig­nif­i­cant client.”

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