A French employee of France’s Consulate in Jerusalem is under arrest for allegedly smuggling dozens of weapons from from Gaza to PA (Palestinian Authority) areas of Yehuda and Shomron.
The Shin Bet Spokesman Unit revealed the smuggling operation involving components in Gaza, Yehuda, Shomron and the eastern capital has been uncovered.
According to the information obtained during the Shin Bet probe, the weapons were transferred from the Erez Crossing in Gaza into southern Israel by Romain Franck, 23, a French national who is employed by the French Consulate in Jerusalem.
The indictment said he used his consular vehicle, which is subjected to far less stringent security check at the crossing, to transport the weapons through Israel’s tightly secured border with the Gaza Strip. It said he took part in the ring for financial gain and that his employer was unaware of his actions.
According to the indictment, Franck was a driver for the consulate and would ferry diplomatic staff between Gaza and Jerusalem. He would transport the arms in packages or suitcases in the trunk of the consular car and lie to Israeli security guards at the Gaza border crossing when asked if he was carrying any weapons. The indictment said Franck earned thousands of dollars for moving the guns.
Frank is credit with transferring approximately 70 pistols and 2 assault rifles, which he received from a Gaza resident employed in the Center for French Culture in Gaza. He then transferred the weapons to persons in Yehuda and Shomron, who sold them to weapons dealers in the PA.
Among the persons in custody is an eastern Jerusalem Arab resident who works as a security guard in the French Consulate in Jerusalem, as well as a Gazan who was apprehended for being in a PA area illegally. A total of nine suspects were arrested during the investigation and criminal indictments were handed down against six of them on Monday, 3 Nissan, in the southern district.
The investigation also showed that several of the suspects were involved in smuggling funds from Gaza to Yehuda and Shomron.
On Monday, Israel charged Franck with conspiracy to commit a crime and multiple weapons offenses, among other counts.
A senior Shin Bet officer states, “This is a very grave incident in which the immunity and privileges granted to foreign missions in Israel was cynically exploited in order to smuggle dozens of weapons which could have been used in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and members of the security forces.”
The foregoing investigation was conducted in coordination with the Foreign Ministry; the French authorities were updated regularly.
The French Embassy in Israel issued a statement confirming that a consulate employee had been arrested, saying it was treating the incident with “great importance,” but wouldn’t discuss the case itself. The embassy said it was in contact with Israeli authorities and the suspect’s family, and was opening an internal investigation into the matter.
(AP / YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)