Police in Israel have launched a criminal investigation against a leading kamikaze-drone manufacturing company that had a deal with Azerbaijan on the supply ofdeadly unmanned aerial vehicles allegedly live tested on Armenian forces.
Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS) appeared in the center of a scandal last August when the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported that during the visit of the company’s officials to Baku the capabilities of the Orbiter 1K drones were demonstrated to the Azerbaijani side through an attack on Armenian army positions.
Another Israeli newspaper, Maariv, claimed that two Israeli drone operators working for the company rebuffed Azerbaijani officials’ demand to demonstrate the use of the ‘suicide’ drone by hitting an Armenian position with it. But other, more senior ADS executives agreed to launch the deadly craft on the target, but the strike missed the target, according to Maariv. ADS denied the report.
Now a week after the visit of Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian to Israel, the country’s police have come up with an official statement: “An investigation is ongoing against Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd. in regards to a deal with a significant customer.”
Even though the Israeli police do not specify the name of the “significant customer”, most of the local media believe the matter concerns Azerbaijan.
“The Israel Police’s Unit of International Crime Investigations… is leading the investigation. News of the investigation came out on Monday as an Israeli court approved a gag order for the case, limiting the information that can be published about it,” The Times of Israel writes.
According to the same source, the gag order shows that the company has been under investigation since at least September 4, a few weeks after the initial allegations came out regarding its live-fire demonstration against an Armenian military position.
Still in September a senior Armenian military official welcomed Israeli authorities’ reported decision to halt exports of Israeli-made kamikaze drones to Azerbaijan. Deputy Defense Minister David Pakhchanian said that Israeli arms dealers have repeatedly struck Armenian targets at the behest of Azerbaijani officials.
During his visit to Israel last week Armenian Foreign Minister Nalbandian met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials. In an interview with Israeli Public Television, the top Armenian diplomat said that Armenia has held “very open and positive” discussions with Israel regarding large-scale sales of Israeli-made weapons to Azerbaijan.
“Arms trade is not trade in vegetables and it always has a dark side that could have some negative consequences,” Nalbandian told the Israeli broadcaster. “What is important in Armenia’s relations with Israel is that we have no taboo issues in our discussions, and even sensitive questions we are discussing openly and trying to find ways out.”
“We are discussing [the matter] in a very open and very positive way,” he added when asked about Yerevan’s expectations from the Israeli government on the arms deals with Baku. He did not elaborate.
Nalbandian did not specifically say whether he discussed with Netanyahu the recent scandal involving the alleged live testing of an Israeli-made drone on an Armenian army position last summer.