An IDF army captain, his driver and his driver’s father were arrested last month for allegedly stealing “dozens of grenades and missiles” from a military base in the Negev Desert, Israel Police said Tuesday.
The 24-year-old company commander, Cpt. Shadi Bashir, along with the enlisted soldier who acts as his driver, Adi Zoabi, were arrested in July following an intensive three-month investigation. However, details of the case were kept under court-imposed gag order, the police said.
“This was a serious crime, which could have resulted in catastrophe. This weaponry might have ended up in the hands of criminals or terrorists who could have caused the injury of innocent people,” police said in statement.
On Tuesday, the court lifted the gag order as the three men were expected to be indicted Thursday.
Bashir is from Zarzir, a town northwest of Nazareth, while the driver and his father are from Tamra, a small village outside Acre.
According to investigators, Zoabi broke into an armory on the base in late April and stole fragmentation grenades and at least two different types of missiles, the Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW) and the Man-portable Anti-Tank, Anti-DOoR (MATADOR).
The captain was allegedly present at the time of the theft and helped his driver afterwards sell the weapons to his father, Muhammad Zoabi, who has a criminal background, police said.
The company commander admitted to interrogators that he, along with the enlisted man, loaded the stolen materiel into the vehicle of the driver’s father, but Bashir’s attorneys claimed he did so unwillingly.
Police, however, said the captain received “tens of thousands of shekels” in exchange for the weaponry.
The attorneys told the Ynet news website that Bashir had been forced to help in the theft, following “threats to his life,” and that he had never received payment for the stolen weapons.
“He did not take an active role in the theft and was not part of it. Our client acted under threats to his life and the lives of his family members, and he was therefore unable to thwart the theft,” attorneys Shmuel Barzani and Sima Cohen said.
Zoabi the driver, meanwhile, refused to cooperate with investigators altogether and instead exercised his right to remain silent, police said.
The lawyer representing both Zoabis told Ynet denied the accusations against their clients, saying they had simply been “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The investigation was part of an ongoing effort by the Israel Police and IDF to stop criminals and terrorist groups from obtaining military weaponry.
When police were informed of the break-in and theft, officers launched an undercover investigation in collaboration with the IDF Military Police, collecting testimonies and forensic evidence from soldiers and civilians who had access to the armory.
Once investigators were certain the company commander and his driver had been present at the scene of the crime, the police began collecting physical evidence, and ultimately arrested the pair last month.
A few days later, the driver’s 46-year-old father was also arrested, police said.
On Monday, all three were given official notice of their impending indictments. The two soldiers will be charged by the IDF Military Advocate General, while the Southern District attorney will file the indictment against the driver’s father, a civilian.