Police on Tuesday placed the former commander of the Israeli Navy under house arrest, after questioning him for hours on suspicion of receiving bribes in the multi-million dollar purchase of naval vessels from Germany.
Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom is the most senior military figure ever to have been arrested in Israel’s history, Channel 2 reported. He will remain confined to his home until Thursday.
Marom was questioned under caution at the Lahav 433 serious crimes unit in Lod since the morning, police said in the afternoon, and questioning reportedly continued throughout the entire day.
According to Hebrew media reports, police suspect Marom controlled a bank account in Cyprus used to transfer bribe money from officials in German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp to Israeli officials. He is also suspected of pushing the German company to replace their former Israeli representative, Yishaya Barkat, with another suspect in the case, Miki Ganor.
According to the Ynet news website, police possess an accounting document summarizing ThyssenKrupp’s financial dealing with various Israeli officials. Investigators suspect one payment clause labelled “Useful Expenses” was a cover for bribe money paid to Marom through Ganor.
“There is substantial evidence that the suspects will need to answer for,” a senior police official said. “Some of the money paid to the suspects was actual fees for their work, but we suspect that another part is bribe money.”
The development came a day after six suspects were brought in for questioning as part of an ongoing investigation into the so-called “Case 3000,” or the “submarine affair.” They are suspected of attempting to sway multi-million dollar ship deals in favor of ThyssenKrupp.
Police initially withheld the names of the suspects. However, later Monday it was revealed that two of the suspects are former deputy head of the National Security Council Avriel Bar-Yosef and ThyssenKrupp’s Israeli agent Ganor. An unnamed lawyer with close ties to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was grilled on Monday and again on Tuesday morning.
The suspects were questioned under caution for more than 12 hours on suspicions of fraud, bribery, tax evasion and money laundering, the Israel Police and the Tax Authority said in a joint statement. “At the time of the events under question, some of the suspects were public servants and some worked in the private sector,” the statement said.
Following the interrogations, three of the suspects were brought to the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, which acceded to the police request to hold Bar-Yosef and Ganor for a further four days and keep the lawyer under house arrest for three days.
Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case. However, police are planning to summon him to testify on what he knows about the issue and specifically as to whether he knew of the corruption allegations against Bar-Yosef when he sought to appoint him head of the National Security Council in 2016, Channel 2 news reported.
Bar-Yosef’s candidacy was later withdrawn when it emerged that he was suspected of accepting bribes in exchange for promoting the interests of German businessmen involved in the development of Israel’s offshore gas fields.
The Israeli-German deals came under intense scrutiny late last year, after it was revealed by Channel 10 news that Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shimron had also served in an advisory capacity for ThyssenKrupp, which was awarded the contracts for building Israel’s submarines and naval attack boats.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered the Israel Police to formally look into the submarine affair in November 2016, after accusations surfaced that Netanyahu may have been swayed to purchase vessels by Shimron.
In December, officers from the Lahav 433 unit entered the office of legal adviser Ahaz Ben-Ari at the Defense Ministry building in Tel Aviv and removed information from computers there. The data concerned the cancellation of an international tender to build four new warships to protect Israel’s offshore natural gas rigs in the Mediterranean Sea.
The contract was awarded instead to ThyssenKrupp. Under the 2015 deal, worth €430 million ($480 million), ThyssenKrupp is to supply Israel with four “Sa’ar 6 corvette” ships over a period of five years.
The purchase was opposed by parts of the defense establishment, including then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon, who has since threatened to “tell all” on Netanyahu’s involvement if the prime minister is not indicted as part of the probe.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.