|Operative in Israeli espionage ring turned Hollywood tycoon Arnon Milchan|
An espionage ring smuggled 800 krytons to the Israeli Ministry of Defense for use in the clandestine Israeli nuclear weapons program according to newly declassified FBI files. The secret documents were originally scheduled for public release in the year 2036, but were obtained under appeal to the Justice Department by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep). The documents available online at http://www.IRmep.org/ila/krytons reveal new details about the failed effort to indict the nuclear smuggling ring's masterminds.
A kryton is a gas-filled tube used as a high-speed switch. Their export requires a U.S. State Department munitions license because they can be used as triggers for nuclear weapons. The U.S. government rejected several requests for kryton export licenses to Israel. California-based MILCO International Inc. shipped 15 orders totaling 800 krytons through an intermediary to the Israeli Ministry of Defense between 1979 and 1983. Heli Trading Company, owned by Israeli movie producer Arnon Milchan, brokered the transactions with MILCO.
The FBI file reveals that after the illicit kryton exports were discovered, a U.S. attorney tried to flip MILCO President Richard Kelly Smyth to implicate Milchan during intense plea bargaining. The gambit failed, and in May 1984 Smyth was indicted on 30 counts of smuggling and making false statements. Smyth and his wife promptly fled the US until extradited from Spain by Interpol in 2001. Milchan denied any involvement.
In 1985 a federal grand jury was convened in Los Angeles to investigate related Atomic Energy Act and Arms Export Control Act violations, but no charges were ever filed against Milchan or those who covered Smyth's living expenses abroad. The FBI records reveal intense interest in Milchan into the mid-1990s. In 1992, a confidential informant apparently relayed new details of Milchan's ties to Smyth. The declassified but heavily redacted "secret" communications reveal the FBI's review of Milchan's 1996 entry in Who's Who, close relations with Israeli leaders Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, and news clippings.
A 2011 biography titled Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan claims that Milchan was recruited into Israel's LAKAM economic espionage unit in his 20s and became a key operative for Benjamin Blumberg and Rafi Eitan. Blumberg was the head of LAKAM. Eitan infiltrated the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation NUMEC in 1968 and later handled convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.