Retired US colonel charged with smuggling weapons to Somalia
July 6, 2010 5 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A retired US Air Force colonel, who was charged with weapons smuggling during the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, has been indicted again, this time for trying to smuggle automatic weapons into Somalia. US federal authorities accuse Joseph O’Toole, now 79, of conspiring with Israeli citizen Chanoch Miller, formerly an aeronautics engineer with Israeli defense firm Radom Aviation, to transport nearly 2,000 AK-47s from Bosnia to Banderal, Somalia. The smuggling operation, which employed forged end-user certificates issued in Chad, violated US weapons export control regulations, which are in compliance with a United Nations weapons embargo to war-ravaged Somalia. This is the second time O’Toole has been indicted with conspiring to smuggle weapons. In 1989, he was charged of working with fellow-American Richard St. Francis and Israeli alleged ex-Mossad operative Ari Ben-Menashe, to sell several US C-130 cargo airplanes to the Iranian government. Remarkably, the US government dropped all charges against O’Toole in 1991. But the former US Air Force colonel appears to have failed to learn from that experience. This time around, the source that he and Miller tried to enlist to transport the AK-47s to Somalia was actually a US Customs and Immigrations Enforcement agency informant, who turned both of them in. Politico’s Laura Rozen contacted O’Toole’s wife, who refused to comment on her husband’s indictment. But the case has prompted Yossi Melman, veteran security correspondent for Israel newspaper Ha’aretz, to ponder why there are so many Israelis arrested over illegal arms deals worldwide. Melman writes that “[a]t least seven Israeli arms dealers are currently in jail in four countries –the United States, Russia, France and Britain– on charges of illegal arms dealing […], forgery, bribery, money laundering and violating UN Security Council embargoes. Such arrests are briefly covered in Israel and then forgotten. But they have a cumulative effect that is very damaging to Israel’s image, or what remains of it”, notes the journalist and author.