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Former IDF Pilot Arrested Smuggling $2.5 Million In Zimbabwe Diamonds, Dtory Under Israeli Gag

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Richard Silverstein
March 23, 2012

This promises to be an interesting story.  The Telegraph reports that former IDF pilot, Shmuel Kainan Klein was arrested in Harare’s international airport while trying to smuggle $2.5-million worth of local diamonds out of the country in his luggage:

Shmuel Kainan Klein, 55, was detained shortly before boarding a South African Airways flight to Johannesburg when security officials at the airport discovered a bag of more than 1,400 stones, weighing 1.7kg, in his hand luggage.

For his part, Klein claims that he was framed by someone he knew but would not name:

Speaking from Harare yesterday, he told The Daily Telegraph that he was a “freelancer” but declined to give further details.

“I was framed and I know who framed me but I can’t talk about this now,” he said. “I was arrested in transit and was only on the ground for 15 minutes.

“I was working for an international company inspecting the crew of the aircraft which took me from Johannesburg to Harare. I have never been to Zimbabwe before.”

Mr Klein lives in Johannesburg and Tel Aviv and has worked mostly as a commercial pilot since he left the Israeli Air Force in 1978.

Zimbabwe has one of the most porous and corrupt diamond industries in the world.  It’s not surprising that such an incident would occur.  What is surprising is that the effort was done in such a slipshod manner.  I’m sure there are officially sanctioned diamond smuggling operations benefiting specific generals or politicians which operate on a much larger and more efficiently organized basis than this one.  The key interesting question is who Klein was working for.

Another very interesting question is why Klein’s identity is under gag in the Israeli media.  In covering the story, neither HaaretzYnet or Nana use his name.  If the blackout of his name is due to the military censor rather than a court-imposed gag, then they believe they have to protect him for security reasons, which is odd considering he left the air force nearly 35 years ago.  Is it possible that he works for, or has worked for the Mossad or an Israeli security entity affiliated with it?

UPDATE: Latest word from Israel is that the Yediot Achronot print edition has published Klein’s name.  Not sure why the other newspapers were so hesitant at first.

Also interesting that a wealthy member of the Harare Jewish community has put up a deed for his house as bond for Klein.

This article was posted: Friday, March 23, 2012 at 4:06 am

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