An Israeli businessman was arrested at Ben Gurion Airport on suspicion of selling hang gliders with possible military uses to Tehran via Amman and Dubai.
The man, 54-year-old Anatoly Cohn, is suspected of conducting business with an enemy country and masking the deal by shipping the merchandise through two different third-party countries, Channel 2 News reported.
The report did not say when Cohn was arrested.
Cohn, CEO and chief designer of APCO Aviation, a company that specializes in manufacturing hang gliders, had initially declared that the shipment consisted of “sports equipment.”
When it was checked by Israeli security forces, however, the shipment was found to contain two paragliders capable of staying in the air for many kilometers at a time and carrying a load weighing several dozen kilograms, as well as one passenger.
It also contained two full paragliding kits.
Upon further inspection, security forces discovered that the shipment was planned to reach the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via Jordan. As Israel has no diplomatic relations with the UAE, they were prompted to investigate the shipment further – only to discover that its final destination was Iran.
Fearing the Islamic republic would put the paragliders to military use, security forces issued a warrant for Cohn’s arrest. He was taken in for questioning soon after arriving in Israel from Switzerland, and then released on bail to house arrest, on the condition that he remain in the country. He surrendered his Israeli passport to border security personnel at the airport.
“I was very surprised by this whole matter; it has come as a total surprise to me. I think there has been a misunderstanding,” Cohn was quoted by Channel 2 as saying after his release.
According to the report, security forces were concerned that Cohn might have traded with Iran in the past, undetected.
Israeli citizens are barred from doing business with enemy countries, Iran among them.
Cohn’s company, APCO Aviation, was founded in 1974 as a hang glider and ultralight aircraft manufacturer before branching out in 1986 to build paragliders, according to the company’s website.
The Caesaria-based company is described as “one of the world’s biggest producers of paragliders, harnesses, parachute rescue systems and accessories.”
An article that appeared on the website of the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles in 2011 stated that Cohn entered the Israeli aviation business after getting deported from Soviet Russia in the 1970s.
He now “heads one of the world’s most successful brands in paramotoring and paragliding equipment,” the article said.