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Charges pressed against Israeli kamikaze drone maker suspected of attacking Armenian positions

Israeli drone-maker Aeronautics and three of its senior employees were charged on Wednesday with violating the law regulating defense exports in its dealing with one of its most prominent clients, Haaretz reports.

A gag order issued by the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court prevents the publication of further details.

The firm has been under investigation for the past several years. In 2018 the Justice Ministry said prosecutors intended to press charges against its employees for aggravated fraud and violations of the defense export law.

In an unusual announcement in August 2017, the Defense Ministry said that it had suspended the marketing and export license for one of the firm’s attack drones to a significant customer in a foreign country. Police later launched an investigation into the matter.

That same month it was reported that the Defense Ministry’s Security Agency opened a probe into a complaint alleging that Aeronautics representatives demonstrated the use of a kamikaze drone in Azerbaijan by attacking a manned position of the Armenian army.

The company denied the claim at the time and said that any operational use of the aircraft was only carried out by the buyer of the drone. Aeronautics Defense added that it never carries out demonstrations against live targets, as was the case in this instance.

Founded in 1997 under the name NETS Integrated Avionics Systems, Aeronautics manufactures UAVs for military surveillance and defense and for the commercial sector. The company nearly collapsed in 2011, but was rescued by private equity investors Viola, Beresheet and KCPS, which today hold a combined 36 percent of its shares.

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