The Israeli police announced Tuesday that it has opened a criminal investigation in a drone manufacturer that allegedly live tested a suicide drone on Artsakh targets on the orders of Azerbaijan earlier this year.
The Times of Israel reported that a police statement confirmed that the Israeli Aeronautics Defense System Ltd. was the target of the criminal investigation.
“An investigation is ongoing against Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd. in regards to a deal with a ‘significant customer,’” police said in a statement Tuesday.
A gag order issued by an Israeli court on Monday to limit the flow of information about the case prompted the news to come out. The police’s ability to identify the “significant customer” is among the restrictions imposed by the gag order.
The Israel Police’s Unit of International Crime Investigations, known by its Hebrew acronym, Yahbal, is leading the investigation, according to Times of Israel.
In August, the Israeli defense ministry’s Defense Export Controls Agency halted the sales license of Aeronautics Defense System after an investigation was launched on a complaint that company officials were ordered by Azerbaijan to carry out a live test on Artsakh targets of its Orbiter 1K model UAV, which can be outfitted with a 2.2 to 4.4-pound explosive load and flown on “suicide missions.”
The Hay Zinvor news outlet quoted Colonel Armen Gyozalian of the Artsakh army as confirming that two people were lightly wounded in an attack on Artsakh targets on July 7.
Aeronautics, which was poised to make a $20 million deal with the “significant customer” said it would “fully cooperate with any examination on any issue and would work to the best of its capabilities so the investigation will be as swift as possible.”
The gag rule revealed that the police investigation has been underway since September 4 against Aeronautics, which, according to Times of Israel, has had dealing with the Myanmar military junta, which is accused of ethnic cleansing for its treatment of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
The live test against Artsakh targets that is the focus of the investigation would be illegal under Israeli law. “It would require a seldom-granted permit to carry out demonstrations against real targets. In this case, Aeronautics Defense Systems would be even less likely to receive such a permit, as Israel does not consider Armenia to be an enemy state,” according to Times of Israel.
During a press conference in Los Angeles on Monday, Armenia’s Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan said that Armenia was concerned with any country selling weapons to Azerbaijan, because, according to the minister, Azerbaijan’s policies and its lack of respect for human rights did not guarantee that the country would utilize the weapons according to international norms and regulations.
Azerbaijan president Ilham Aliyev announced that last year that his country had purchased $5 billion in weapons and military equipment from Israel.