Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer David Shimron was freed from house arrest on Saturday evening and immediately left the country for a vacation in the US.
Shimron, who is also a close friend and cousin of Netanyahu, is a suspect in “Case 3000,” in which authorities are investigating possible corruption and bribery involved in multi-billion shekel naval deals with German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp.
He was questioned several times last week and put under house arrest. Police gave him permission to leave the country despite the ongoing investigation.
Another suspect in the case, the former commander of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom was also released from house arrest on Saturday evening.
Marom and Shimron are among six suspects brought in for questioning as part of the investigation. They are suspected of attempting to sway deals in favor of ThyssenKrupp. Two other suspects are former deputy head of the National Security Council Avriel Bar-Yosef and ThyssenKrupp’s Israeli agent Miki Ganor.
The suspects were questioned under caution on suspicions of fraud, bribery, tax evasion and money laundering, the Israel Police and the Tax Authority said in a joint statement last week. “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.
Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case. However, police are planning to summon him to testify on what he knows about the issue.
The Israeli-German deals came under intense scrutiny late last year, after it was revealed by Channel 10 news that Shimron had also served as ThyssenKrupp agent Ganor’s lawyer in the deal, where the German company was awarded the contracts for building Israel’s submarines and naval attack boats.
At the time Shimron denied any improprieties.
Shimron said he “did not discuss these matters with the prime minister,” and denied any effort to influence a decision over the deal.
“I have not spoken with any state officials about the privatization of the naval shipyard, nor I have not dealt with any state officials about vessels purchased by the State of Israel,” he said in a statement.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit ordered 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.
Shimron is suspected of pushing for an NIS 6 billion ($1.5 billion) defense contract to purchase submarines for the Israeli Navy and other vessels for protecting the country’s maritime natural gas fields, an effort that could have netted him a hefty fee.
Netanyahu’s own role in the purchase decision, including his insistence that Thyssenkrupp be exempted from the usual Defense Ministry tender process, raised concerns of a conflict of interest for Shimron. Part of the agreement being pushed by Shimron would also have seen ThyssenKrupp construct a lucrative shipyard in Israel, where the company would maintain the new vessels.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.