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Former IDF Pilot Arrested Smuggling $2.5-Million in Zimbabwe Diamonds, Story Under Israeli Gag

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 Haaretz, Ynet 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.

{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Joel March 23, 2012, 4:19 AM

    Why, any time an Israeli transgresses anywhere in the world, do you deem it newsworthy?

    • Richard Silverstein March 23, 2012, 6:18 PM

      You may not have noticed the theme of this blog is ISRAEL. That’s what I write about.

      Believe me, I don’t write about every Israeli transgression either. A few days ago I had the name of a reporter accused of possessing child pornography whose name was under gag. I neither reported his name or the story. There are numerous such stories I DON’T report.

    • David March 24, 2012, 12:15 AM

      Joel — what’s your point? Do you feel “picked on?” Do you think there is a plot to give Israel a bad rep and this blog is just part of it? Do you think that writing up the story is “anti-semitic?”

      I’m betting this guy is working for Israel in some capacity.

      • Joel March 24, 2012, 6:03 AM

        ‘the theme of this blog is ISRAEL’, yet little is ever said about Israel’s positives.

        The blog seems to me to be about the pillory and punishment of Israel, and in the instant, the pillory and punishment of Mr. Klein.

        And no David, I don’t feel “picked on”, least of all by you.

        • Richard Silverstein March 24, 2012, 8:05 PM

          I’ll make you & your pro Israel friends a deal: when you can express sentiments analyzing Israel critically & not deferentially, then I’ll write nice things about Israel. BTW, I do write about Israel’s positives when I read a story that moves me. If there isn’t enough positive about Israel here it’s because Israel presents far more negative than positive for the world to see. That’s not my fault. That’s Israel’s.

          And the idea that Israel needs me to write positively about it when there are so many hasbarist bloggers & journalists who do nothing but sing Israel’s praises, weakens your claim.

          • David March 25, 2012, 12:49 AM

            I get impatient with the oppressors complaining about criticism, touting the good stuff that they do. As they say, Mussolini made the trains run on time. No question.

            Joel’s word choice “transgresses” is far too neutral a term. It suggests that, in the normal course of things, Israel behaves like a normal state with respect to the international community and its neighbors, but once in awhile, the state “transgresses” and mean guys like myself (and many others) automatically pounce all over it. The truth is that Israel has established a considerable record of ignoring international law and human rights violations, of violence and force, on an on-going basis and this habitual behavior suggests something almost pathological with the Israeli leadership and the right wing, its policies and practices.

            Furthermore, Richard does write a lot of positive stuff about Israel, about resistance to the Occupation in Israel and in the OT, about dissent as yet unstilled in the halls of power, about non-violent protests and the increasing impact of BDS. Richard helps to expose the lies and cover ups by that government and this is very very positive.

            What’s not to like?

          • Joel March 25, 2012, 5:46 AM

            “I’m betting this guy is working for Israel in some capacity.”

            “Is it possible that he works for, or has worked for the Mossad or an Israeli security entity affiliated with it?”

            More Zionist conspiracies that lead nowhere.

          • Richard Silverstein March 25, 2012, 12:47 PM

            If there had been a gag on this story, as was entirely possible at the time, then this would have been an entirely plausible hypothesis. The problem with Israeli censorship is that when the media leave out key information like the suspect’s name you don’t know the reason & are only left to speculate. No other major western society or press would have done what the Israeli press did here.

            The problem isn’t my speculation. The problem is the fact that Israeli media cannot behave in the way western media do which enjoy full freedom of the press.

          • Joel March 25, 2012, 5:56 AM

            David says:

            “Israel behaves like a normal state with respect to the international community and its neighbors”.

            David. Name a ‘normal state’ that is a neighbor of Israel. If this is to difficult for you, than go beyond the neighborhood and name the closest ‘normal state’ in the region.

            Answer me and I’ll make a PayPal contribution to the site.

          • Richard Silverstein March 25, 2012, 12:44 PM

            Israel is no more a “normal” state than any neighboring state is.

          • David March 25, 2012, 1:04 PM

            There are “normalized” relations aplenty in the world, but yes the neighborhood is way bent out of shape. Israel is only as normal as the US which also foregoes any duty to international law, UN resolutions, etc. But that’s really it — Israel/US as a bloc and then the rest of the world.

            Joel — you participate, you should contribute.

  • Bob Mann March 23, 2012, 5:36 AM

    What is the source for your claim that a wealthy member of the Harare Jewish community has put up a deed for his house as bond for Klein?

    • Oded Rozen March 23, 2012, 7:27 AM

      @ BM I remember reading it to in one of the sites, though i don’t remember and can’t find which one it appeared at.

      For Richard, this story was never under a GAG order in Israel and was reported as early as yesterday afternoon.

      • Bob Mann March 23, 2012, 3:57 PM

        It’s in the article from The Telegraph that is in the original post – I just wondered if the blog owner had his own source on it. The Telegraph is a pretty RW source that hasn’t always been on the nose with its info.

        Also there are two other sources from actual news outlets in Zimbabwe that say he posted his own bail and put up the title deeds to his own property, so I’m wondering where The Telegraph got their info from and if it’s actually just a misunderstanding.

    • Richard Silverstein March 23, 2012, 1:17 PM

      Read the links! Always read the links. It saves both of us time.

      • Bob Mann March 23, 2012, 2:28 PM

        Well, of course I read the links. I was just asking if you had a source of your own or if you were just relying on the Telegraph, which is notoriously shaky on facts (and has a RW bias). You are usually pretty dubious about sources like that.

        You’ll note that there are several other articles from news sources within Zimbabwe and elsewhere that indicate that he put up the deed of his own property and posted the bail himself.


        Klein, who is a pilot instructor, was remanded out of custody to March 28 on US$5 000 bail. He was ordered to surrender his passport and the title deeds of his Borrowdale house.


        As part of his bail conditions, Klein was ordered to surrender his passport, title deeds to his Harare property and to report twice every week at Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Serious Frauds.


        • Richard Silverstein March 23, 2012, 6:16 PM

          The Telegraph’s foreign reporting is of higher reporting than its domestic UK reporting.

          I didn’t see those reports. But I have no idea how any country could take possession of a home in a foreign country should he flee.

      • Bob Mann March 23, 2012, 4:16 PM

        I always do. I just thought you might have your own source beyond The Telegraph, which is dubious. Other sources indicate that he put up the deed to his own property and posted his own bail.

        • Richard Silverstein March 23, 2012, 6:13 PM

          The Telegrraph is NOT dubious. I doubt very much that a suspect could put up the deed to a home in a foreign country. That makes no sense. Nor have I seen that version anywhere.

          • Bob Mann March 23, 2012, 6:42 PM

            I am shocked that you do not find the Telegraph’s foreign reporting to be dubious.

            Here is an article they published last month:

            Iran strengthening ties with al–Qaeda, say intelligence chiefs

            Iran has improved its ties with al–Qaeda as part of a campaign to target Western interests around the world that could lead to a spectacular attack in Europe, The Daily Telegraph has learned.


            You don’t find that to be dubious?

          • Richard Silverstein March 24, 2012, 12:49 AM

            Yes, that does appear dubious. Some of the Telegraph’s reporting from Israel that I’ve read has been OK. So I thought the rest of their foreign reporting might be as well. Guess I was wrong. Thanks for alerting me to that issue.

            And of course pro-Israel neocon Michael Weiss blogs for The Telegraph. That says a lot about the paper as well.

          • Iguana Mom March 25, 2012, 1:22 PM

            You have to always consider the reporters name, probably even more than the outlet because you can find them on more than one site. Sometimes a reporters story will be whittled down by an editor, but the reporter will report more information on their own blogs.
            Telegraph publishes Evans-Andrew Pritchard, but also publishes neocon bloggers.

  • Fred Plester March 23, 2012, 2:00 PM

    If it’s a frame-up, it would have be a frame-up by somebody willing to surrender 1.7KG of “ice” to Mugabe and his pals.

    Somebody like Nicholas Van Hoogstraten (ample interests in Zimbabwe) might possess that many diamonds or many more, but I can’t see him using his great wealth to frame an enemy when the simple expedient of burying them in the piles of a marina somewhere would only cost him £10,000 or so. The same goes for the limited number of other gangsters actually as wealthy as Mr Hoogstraten. If you offend them, you have sudden trouble breathing, you don’t suddenly find a fortune hidden in your luggage.

  • Katt March 24, 2012, 5:05 AM

    The Telegraph is referred to as ‘The Torygraph’ in the UK due to it’s notorious right wing bias.

    (The UK Conservative party’s nickname is ‘The Tory party’ or ‘The Tories’….Tory coming from the Irish word tóraí meaning robber or thief – the term being first used as a derogatory name in late 17th UK century politics.)

  • Iguana Mom March 25, 2012, 1:26 PM

    It would be interesting to know the entire story from the mining and the price paid for the labor to each seller.

    There is quite a bit of information available that the diamond certification program is just a big scam, lets a few key families control the entire market with the UN acting as the police force and absorbing the cost of the protection racket itself, and the HR concerns are paid lip service. It’s just a different guy paying the guys holding the guns. Just what I’ve read on the net.

  • yankel March 25, 2012, 1:32 PM

    A couple of things in this story don’t seem to add up:

    You quote the guy as being 55yrs old and date his discharge from the air-force in 1978.

    One couldn’t get discharged (as a pilot!) from Israel’s air-force at age 21.

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