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Suspect Says Official Offered to Help Him Out of Colombia

September 24, 1989

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A retired army officer wanted in Colombia in connection with the training of drug-cartel militias claimed Sunday that an Israeli Embassy official offered to smuggle him from Bogota for $10,000.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said the claim was ″totally unfounded.″

The spokesman, who commented on condition of anonymity, said the Embassy official, security chief Yossi Biran, would remain at his post.

Retired Lt. Col Yair Klein said Biran offered to smuggle him out of Colombia in April after threats on Klein’s life were reported in the Colombian media.

″He thought we were in trouble, and he wanted to help us,″ Klein told The Associated Press on Sunday. ″He did this on his own, without permission from the Embassy and without its involvement.″

The Colombian government issued an arrest warrant for Klein on Sept. 18 after a police investigation uncovered evidence of his involvement in training militias for drug cartels.

Klein denied any knowledge of the warrant and said he would not return to Colombia because ″leftists would like to see me dead or in jail because of my work.″

Klein says he trained right-wing ranchers to fight left-wing guerrillas. He says his work was legal and he left Colombia legally.

Israel has no extradition treaty with Colombia. Klein said he is only willing to submit to questioning at Colombia’s Tel Aviv embassy.

Klein and five other Israelis from his Hod Hahanit private security firm were investigated by Israeli police earlier this month on suspicion of training gunmmen in Colombia and illegally exporting military expertise.

The investigation began in August following reports from Colombia that Israelis were involved in training paramilitary squads for drug dealers.

Israeli authorities have not yet released their conclusions.

Update hourly