JERUSALEM — A major scandal involving allegations of kickbacks and fraud in the purchase of U.S. weapons has rocked Israel's air force, implicating a number of senior officials as well as several employees of U.S. defense firms, official sources and Israeli news reports said Wednesday.
According to the reports, as many as a dozen senior air force and Defense Ministry officials may be charged as a result of a police investigation into the air force's procurement of equipment from U.S. contractors. The equipment was bought with U.S. aid funds.
Police are investigating allegations that millions of dollars were diverted to senior Israeli officers.
At the center of the investigation is Brig. Gen. Rami Dotan, 45, the Israeli air force's quartermaster corps commander until his arrest Oct. 28. He later struck a plea-bargain agreement under which he has begun to detail an elaborate fraud, Israeli Radio reported.
Following up on Dotan's testimony, authorities Tuesday arrested another officer in the quartermaster corps, Col. Yitzhak Sar, on charges of taking bribes and obstructing earlier investigations, official sources said. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens on Wednesday ordered a full inquiry into the scandal, according to the Israeli Embassy in Washington.
One American company cited in Israeli press accounts is General Electric, which supplied jet engines for Israel's version of the F-16 fighter plane. A GE spokesman confirmed the firm is "aware of an investigation by the Israeli government" and is conducting its own investigation.
An official source said FBI agents are trying to determine whether U.S. citizens or companies violated American laws in the case.