The State Attorney’s Office on Thursday announced charges against two former key security figures in the so-called submarines probe, which explored alleged corruption in the purchase of naval vessels from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp.
The investigation, known as Case 3000, has been described by some as the biggest graft scandal in Israel’s history and has ensnared several close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although the premier himself was not a suspect.
Avriel Bar-Yosef, former deputy national security adviser, will face charges of requesting a bribe, taking a bribe, fraud and breach of trust, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.
Bar-Yosef served as deputy national security adviser from 2009 to 2015 and was tapped by Netanyahu in 2016 to serve as national security adviser, but later withdrew his candidacy amid conflict of interest claims.
Brig. Gen.(res.) Shay Brosh, a former commander of the Israeli Navy’s commando unit, will be charged with requesting a bribe, taking a bribe, tax offenses and money laundering.
The charges against the two are pending a hearing.
According to a statement from the State Attorney’s Office, the two men had “a close relationship” and are alleged to have asked for, and received, bribes from Thyssenkrupp’s local agent in return for advancing business deals.
Bar-Yosef’s attorney Jack Chen said his client rejects all the suspicions against him.
“He never asked for and never received any kind of benefit for activities related to his role,” Chen said in a statement. “They were done only for the interest of the public and through untainted professional considerations.”
Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, a former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, wrote on Twitter that he would establish a state commission of inquiry to make sure “that never again will Israel’s security be sold off.”
He also referred to a claim by Blue and White that Netanyahu made million of shekels from selling shares in a publicly traded supplier to Thyssenkrupp.
“Netanyahu must explain to the public how he made NIS 16 million ($4.6 million) from the submarine case and in shares,” he wrote.
Bar-Yosef and Brosh were arrested in 2017 as suspects in the case and then released to house arrest.
Case 3000 centers on a possible conflict of interest surrounding the multi-billion-shekel procurement of military boats and submarines from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp in 2016. Prosecutors allege Israeli officials were bribed to push a massive deal for the vessels, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Prosecutors announced an initial round of charges in December against suspects in the case, among them former defense officials and close associates of Netanyahu.
Thyssenkrupp’s former agent in Israel Miki Ganor was to be charged with bribery, money laundering and tax offenses, as was Eliezer Marom, a former head of the Israeli Navy.
Although at the time prosecutors did not specify whether Bar-Yosef would be charged in the case, they did describe allegedly corrupt ties he had with Ganor.
Bar-Yosef first approached Ganor about becoming Thyssenkrupp’s representative in Israel because he “wanted to derive financial benefit,” prosecutors said. He then allegedly enlisted Marom, who was head of the navy at the time, to help lobby for Ganor’s appointment. Ganor later replaced Yishaya Barkat as Thyssenkrupp’s representative in the country.
“During the meetings Ganor, Marom and Bar-Yosef held from the start of 2009… an understanding, agreement and expectation was formulated between them by which Marom and Bar-Yosef would receive compensation from Ganor for their work in favor of his appointment,” the December statement said.
Ganor allegedly went on to pay NIS 200,000 ($58,000) in total, with prosecutors accusing Bar-Yosef of working to advance naval purchases while serving as deputy national security adviser.
Also in that announcement were charges of bribery, breach of trust and money laundering against David Sharan, a former aide to Netanyahu and to Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz, as well as charges of bribery, money laundering, fraud, breach of trust and tax offenses against former minister Eliezer Sandberg.
David Shimron, Netanyahu’s former personal lawyer and cousin, was to be charged with money laundering.
All the charges were pending a pre-indictment hearing.
Ganor initially signed a deal to become the prosecution’s key witness in the case in which he reportedly admitted to bribing a string of senior officials in order to help secure contracts for the company with Israel’s Defense Ministry.
But in a shock move in March, he told police that he wished to alter key parts of the testimony he gave in the case. Ganor claimed that while he stood behind the facts he had given to police, the payments he gave were consulting fees and not bribes. He said police had pressured him to describe the circumstances so that they shored up the claim he had acted to bribe senior state employees.
That move reportedly came after Ganor discovered that signing a state witness agreement had put his name on an international banking blacklist and blocked his access to tens of millions of shekels held in banks in Cyprus and Austria.
In May, state prosecutors informed Ganor that his deal with the state had been canceled, stripping him of his immunity from prosecution in the case. He had been set to plead guilty only to tax evasion charges and serve a year-long prison sentence as part of the arrangement.
Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust in three separate graft cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He denies wrongdoing.