French consular employee charged in Gaza gun-running scheme.
Prosecutors say Romain Franck knew he could take advantage of lax checks on his diplomatic vehicle to spirit dozens of pistols and two rifles from the Strip to Palestinian terrorists in Judea and Samaria, Israel. (West Bank)
An employee at the French consulate in Jerusalem was indicted on Monday for using a diplomatic vehicle to smuggle dozens of guns from Gaza to Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank. In addition to Romain Franck, five residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem were also charged. A total of nine suspects have been arrested in the case.
According to the indictment, Franck, 24, was aware of the reduced security checks for vehicles with diplomatic license plates, which he allegedly used to illegally transport weapons out of Gaza and into the West Bank.
Franck, who worked as a driver at the consulate, spoke through an interpreter to confirm his identity during the brief court appearance. Two French diplomats were at the court to monitor the proceedings.
He allegedly made five smuggling runs, bringing 70 pistols and two assault rifles to the West Bank from a Palestinian employee at the French Cultural Center in Gaza, Zuheir Abed Abdeen. A contact in the West Bank then sold the weapons to other arms dealers, investigators say. French consulate in Jerusalem employee Romain Franck. (Shin Bet)
Franck was already transporting various valuables in his car on behalf of Abdeen when in September 2017 the Palestinian propositioned him to join a gun-running ring run by Gaza resident Mahmad Jamil al-Haladi, the indictment said.
Franck later brought Mahmad Siad, an Israeli citizen employed at the French consulate in Jerusalem, into the operation and the two would allegedly travel together to deliver the weapons in the West Bank.
Prosecutors say Franck would usually take delivery of the guns from Aabdin and then place them in the trunk of his vehicle. At the border checks he would then falsely declare that all of the bags belonged to him or his passengers and that he was not carrying any weapons.
He was paid several thousand shekels for each delivery, depending on the number of guns he carried across the border.
The Shin Bet security agency said Franck was motivated by financial gain and that his superiors at the French consulate in Jerusalem were unaware of his actions. He was arrested February 15, but the case only became public on Sunday.
Details of the case were released hours ahead of the arraignment Monday, days before French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was set to visit Israel.
Among the others indicted Monday were East Jerusalem residents Moufak al-Ajluni and Mohamed Katout.