(photo credit: Israel Police)
Two residents of Rishon Lezion were under arrest for
stealing up to 170 advanced firearms from a secret Israel Weapons Industry
plant and selling the arms to underworld 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.
"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," he added.
The undercover investigation was launched when police recovered a number of
stolen weapons hidden in a cache in an open field in an Arab town in November 2008. The firearms were
then traced back to the Israel Weapons Industry 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 Galil sniper rifles with silencers, assault rifles with
grenade launchers attached designed for elite Israel Police units, mini-Uzi sub
machine guns with silencers, and several types of handguns.
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," he added.
The two suspects have been named as Sergey Kirzener, a former Israel Weapons
Industries (IWI) plant employee, and Sharon Gutin, a man police describe as an
underworld figure who acted as an intermediary between mob weapons buyers and
Kirzener was tasked with testing the firearms at a firing range in the plant.
"He would take ten guns away for testing on the range and come back with
seven," a police source told The Jerusalem Post.
Kirzener was sacked in recent months for disciplinary reasons, but was able to
continue selling the weapons because he had hidden a number of firearms in
caches outside of the plant.
A Rishon Lezion magistrate extended the custody of the suspects until January
A girlfriend of one of the suspects has also been questioned under caution.
Police say the arrests came after "a certain breakthrough" was made, but
added that they could not elaborate at this stage.
A media gag order prevents publication of certain information pertaining to the