An indictment was filed Thursday with the Beersheba District Court against a figure targeted by the police who, over a period of time, had purchased weapons from an IDF non-commissioned officer (NCO).
Police recently arrested Dimona resident Maor Malka after they captured the NCO that was en-route to him with 10 LAW shoulder-launched missiles in his vehicle. Further charges will be filed later on against professional soldiers who were involved in the theft and transfer of the weapons to Malka.
In line with formal statements made by Police Commissioner Yohanan Denino, police are attempting to imply that the weapons stolen during the affair were used during the wave of assassinations that swept the south of the state in recent months. However, as they were not able to find sufficient evidence, the claim does not appear in the indictment.
The affair was revealed after Central Unit officers obtained intelligence from which they implied that Malka was involved in the trading of arms that he had purchased from NCOs serving in the IDF. One of the non-commissioned officers, Itay Yehuda, who was in charge of an armory in a base in Mishmar HaNegev, was, as mentioned, captured by police with 10 LAW missiles in his vehicle.
According to suspicions, Yehuda intended to sell the missiles to Malka for NIS 900 ($258) each, who would then transfer them to other offenders. The estimated value of one such missile in the underworld is NIS 25,000 ($7187).
Weapons found in Itay Yehuda's vehicle (Photo: Southern District Spokesman). Photo: Southern District Spokesman
The Central Unit officers were surprised to discover the unbearable lightness with which the NCOs removed the weapons from the military bases; they broke into bunkers of various units and stole whatever came into their hands, including explosive bricks, fragmentation grenades, and bullets.
The investigation further revealed that NCO Yehuda had previously served as a warden in the Prison Service, and was fired from his position due to controversial circumstances that involve a drug-related affair. An indictment relating to the case was never filed, and Yehuda's lawyer claimed that his client was only suspected of use of drugs.
Despite these incidents, after leaving the Prison Service Yehuda was accepted into military service. A response from the IDF has yet to be received.
New details surfaced Thursday following the filing of the indictment, including information regarding the relationship that had developed between Malka and NCO Yehuda. Malka owns a headstone manufacturing business, and Yehuda had initially contacted him following the death of a relative.
Yehuda told Malka about his role in the IDF, in which he was in charge of bunkers containing weapons and combat means, and Malka gradually began asking Yehuda for certain items; starting from a flannelette (a cloth soldiers use to clean their rifles), a weapon cleaning kit and additional items.
"At first he asked for things that didn't arouse suspicion", a Central Unit source explained. "Slowly, the requests grew. It came up to a point where a hand grenade was sold for NIS 300 ($86), an explosive brick for NIS 100 ($28) and a bullet for NIS 1 ($0.30). These are unrealistic prices, but the NCO said 'what do I care'. We were amazed to see how easily the NCOs betrayed the trust that was placed in them for their greed of money."
Yehuda, it was claimed, later contacted another suspect: Hanan Biton, a logistics NCO serving in an IDF base in Tze'elim. According to suspicions, Yehuda was assisted by Biton, who removed 34 functioning explosive bricks with 34 detonators, for which Malka paid him NIS 3,400 ($977).
Another suspect is Meir Haver, also a logistics NCO serving in an IDF base. The investigation revealed that Yehuda had contacted him, and the two broke into a warehouse at a base in the Sde Teiman airport, from which they stole 34 fragmentation grenades, for which Yehuda received NIS 6,800 ($1954).
And how were the missiles stolen to begin with? About a month ago, Yehuda entered the Sde Teiman base with a friend and simply took them. He placed them in a bag inside his car and took them to his home in Dimona. Several minutes before the transfer of arms was to be made, Central Unit Officers arrested him along with other suspects.
After purchasing the combat means, Malka would sell them to other criminals. Police define him as a "marketing mean. In general, he's the one who markets to everyone. He isn’t really affiliated with any organization. He gets along with everyone."
Malka occasionally hid the weapons at a cemetery nearby his business. Police suspect that he created a thriving business that earned him thousands of shekels; however, officers failed to seize the money.
Responding to claims made against their client, Malka's laywers said: "After we process and learn the information, we will be able to refer to each and every charge, in order to prove the innocence of our client."
An IDFspokesman stated in response that: "An investigation on the subject is being conducted by the Criminal Investigations Department's Central Unit for Special Investigations, in cooperation with Central Unit officers and Israel police."