A weapon stolen almost a year ago from an office near the chief of staff's room has mysteriously reappeared in exactly the same office on the 14th floor of the IDF headquarters. Corporal Louis Mascotta, found guilty of stealing the weapon and selling it to an Arab Israeli among other offences, has denied any involvement in the reappearance.
The affair was first exposed by Ynet in the summer of 2009. The case included the theft of two rifles from soldiers, an old handgun and details of Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi's credit card.
The handgun was stolen on July 9, 2009, from a room between the chief of staff's room and his deputy. Whoever goes to this room has to pass through the lobby used by both senior officers, where the chief of staff's guards are permanently stationed. Since the theft, security protocols have been improved.
Whoever returned the handgun had to go up to the 14th floor, pass through the lobby and into the secretariat's office. This office is separated from Ashkenazi's office, but nonetheless the weapon's reappearance raises questions. Did the mysterious person have regular access to the office, or did he have to break through security? How did the stolen weapon get to him and why did he return it?
Last May an indictment was submitted to the Jaffa military court against Mascotta after the parties came to an agreement regarding the content. The soldier was accused of attempting to steal a weapon which was an antique piece from the American Civil War period presented to Ashkenazi as a gift from a foreign military representative. Mascotta, according to the indictment, photographed the weapon with his cell phone, intending to show the photo to a potential buyer.
The buyer, Rakez Shalabia, agreed to buy the weapon for NIS 4,000 ($1,050). The following day Mascotta came to a store in Kfar Saba where Shalabia worked and received the money. After a few days the buyer discovered that the weapon "didn't work" and canceled the deal. They agreed between them that the money Mascotta had received would be discounted from money he was to receive for a rifle he had stolen from a soldier – a total of NIS 6,200 ($1,600).
Weapon not usable
Following his arrest, Mascotta was unable to say what had happened to the handgun. "It stayed with the buyer," he said. "I had no use for it."
After a series of talks between the military prosecution led by Lieutenant Colonel Sharon Zagagi-Pinhas and Mascotta's defense counsel Att. Idan Pesach and Benny Kuznitz, it was agreed that the weapon was not usable and therefore the indictment included attempted theft of weapon only.
The dramatic discovery was revealed about ten days ago when the handgun was found. A short investigation revealed that it was indeed the same weapon that was stolen. The military prosecution ordered Mascotta to be summoned from Rimonim Prison for questioning. He said he was amazed to hear that the weapon had reappeared and was not involved in any way.
As a result of the "significant developments," the court debate scheduled for a few days ago was postponed.
It is not yet clear how the weapon's reappearance will affect Mascotta's trial. However, it seems that whoever is responsible for security in the IDF's most important offices should reexamine the situation there.
Mascotta's defense said the affair proved that their client was being used by criminal elements who pressured him to act as he did.