Two men arrested for stealing 170 firearms

Former weapons plant employee would 'take 10 guns away for testing on the range and come back with seven.'

January 28, 2010 02:56
2 minute read.
Some of the stolen firearms retreived.

stolen guns. (photo credit: Israel Police)

Two residents of Rishon Lezion were arrested this week for stealing up to 170 advanced firearms from a secret Israel Weapon Industries plant and selling them to criminal organizations, police revealed on Wednesday.

"This is a very serious development, which could actively harm our national security. These weapons have fallen into criminal hands. I hope the arrests will go some way towards retrieving the firearms," Ch.-Supt. Tomer Cohen, of the Central District's Central Unit, told The Jerusalem Post.

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"Our priority now is to check whether these firearms have been sold on to terrorists," Cohen added. "The majority of the 170 firearms have been sold to criminal elements, and we are in the process of trying to track them down."

The undercover investigation was launched in November, after police recovered a number of stolen weapons hidden in a cache in a field in the Arab town of Taiba. The firearms were traced back to the Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) plant.

The Central District's Central Unit activated two undercover agents to monitor the suspects as they allegedly stole millions of dollars worth of advanced weaponry designated for special army forces, elite Israel Police units, and government security agents.

The stolen arms include Galilee sniper rifles with silencers, assault rifles with grenade launchers attached, designed for top police units, mini-Uzi submachine guns with silencers, and several types of handguns, including the Jericho combat pistol.

Some of the sniper rifles have a range of one kilometer.

"The majority of the weapons have already been sold," Cohen said. "They were taken directly off the production line."

The two suspects have been named as Sergey Kirzener, a former IWI plant employee, and Sharon Gutin, a man police describe as an underworld figure who acted as an intermediary between mob weapons purchasers and Kirzener.

Before he lost his job over disciplinary issues, Kirzener was tasked with testing the powerful guns at a firing range in the plant.

"He would take 10 guns away for testing on the range and come back with seven," a police source told the Post.

Even after his sacking, Kirzener was able to continue selling the weapons because he had hidden a number of them in caches outside of the plant, police said.

A Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court extended the custody of the suspects until January 31. A girlfriend of one of the suspects has also been questioned under caution.

Police said the arrests came after "a certain breakthrough" was made, but would not elaborate. A gag order prevents publication of certain information pertaining to the investigation.•

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