Police on Monday said they uncovered a huge cache of stolen weapons, including M16 rifles, and arrested six men, breaking open a large gunrunning operation.
The men were accused of breaking into a weapons arsenal on an army base in the south of the country on May 26 and stealing 33 M16 rifles. Eleven of the rifles were recovered, along with three other weapons. Cops also found various illegal drugs including ecstasy. They confiscated NIS 1 million ($285,000) in cash and four vehicles allegedly used in the robbery, valued at NIS 400,000 ($115,000).
Officials described the raid as one of the biggest police hauls in recent years.
“This is a serious case of theft of dozens of weapons from a military base, and trading with weapons in both the north and the south of the country,” police said in the statement.
Two of the men were from the Beersheba area and the rest from the north of the country.
On Monday cops asked the court to keep the six men in custody.
On May 28 police were notified of the break-in and theft at the Sde Teiman army base, in the northern Negev.
Contractors who were painting the army base at that time became the prime suspects. As the undercover investigation continued other suspects from the north of the country were identified.
During questioning the suspects said that they had carefully planned the details of the theft and gained the trust of the soldiers who were supposed to be guarding them as they worked on the base. One of the two broke the lock on the arsenal, filled their car with the weapons and placed a new lock on the door. The theft was noticed only a couple of days later.
On the day of the theft, the two sold 10 of the weapons to crime organizations in the south, and 18 to criminal groups in the north. Four days later they sold a further five weapons in the north. The weapons were hidden in the trunk of a car, and the buyers and sellers met at a service station on Route 6, where they switched vehicles. Payment was made a few days later.
Two of the men arrested are accused of stealing the weapons, and the four from the north are accused of purchasing the weapons.