Israeli news outlets have reported that the country’s elite anti-corruption unit of the police, called Lahav 433, arrested over a dozen people following a months’ long “covert operation” into alleged corruption in the Israeli Aerospace Industries, the government-owned manufacturer of aerial and space systems for the country’s military and civilian spheres. Because of the sensitive nature of the products that it makes and develops, the IAI is known to require security clearance of its employees, and access to its facilities is off-limits to the general public.
RKN Global founder Ronald K. Noble observes that corruption thrives when there is a lack of transparency. Governments and aerospace industries rightfully require a higher level of secrecy and security in order to protect the public safety and ensure the well-being of the public. However, the insulation from public oversight that such confidentiality entails creates the opportunity for corruption.
In the case of the IAI, the police arrested 13 individuals, among them a well-known, high-level military officer, as well as employees of IAI, its suppliers, and its customers. While the specific facts have not yet come to light, the police statement described a pattern of significant corruption: “This is an extensive investigation, with a wide scope, which includes a number of sub-scandals, and raises suspicions of a range of charges — corruption, aggravated fraud, money laundering, theft by public officials, illegal business practices, fraud and breach of trust.”
Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, reiterates the importance of oversight for public bodies, especially those whose activities are, by nature, confidential. Undoubtedly, after the legal proceedings arising from this case, there will be public inquiry into what types of safeguards and oversight were currently lacking that allowed the corruption to go unnoticed until whatever incident occurred which triggered the covert police investigation (which was conducted along with the Tax Authority, an investigative unit of the Defense Ministry, and the State Attorney’s Office’s financial crimes unit).
Different confidential bodies will require different types of oversight, depending on the level of confidentiality and the nature of the activities it undertakes. Certainly, as a general rule, an apolitical panel with high level security clearance (such as members of Parliament from different political parties in Israel’s case) would be a good place to start to provide the requisite oversight in order to protect against corruption in the future.