Charges in massive submarine graft case reportedly expected in coming days

Prosecutors said seeking indictments against former Navy chief, Thyssenkrupp agent, and others in alleged bribery scheme surrounding naval deal worth billions of shekels

Israeli businessman and Thyssenkrupp representative Miki Ganor at a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli businessman and Thyssenkrupp representative Miki Ganor at a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

State prosecutors are expected to announce charges in the coming days against former defense officials in a massive graft scandal involving suspected corruption in the purchase of naval vessels from Germany.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and State Attorney Shai Nitzan on Tuesday met with the Lahav 433 police anti-corruption unit to discuss the final stps before filing indictments, Haaretz reported.

Case 3000, as it is known, centers on a possible conflict ‎of ‎interest surrounding the multi-billion-shekel procurement of military boats and submarines from German shipbuilder ‎Thyssenkrupp in 2016. Police believe Israeli officials were bribed to push a massive deal for the vessels worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The high-profile investigation has ensnared several close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but not the premier himself, on suspicion that they received illicit funds as part of the massive scheme. Some have called it the largest suspected graft scandal in the country’s history.

Former head of the Israeli Navy, Eliezer Marom, and Miki Ganor, a former agent in Israel for Thyssenkrupp, were likely to be charged for bribery, pending a hearing, in the so-called submarine affair.

Avriel Bar-Yosef, former deputy national security adviser, would likely be charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing, Channel 13 reported on Tuesday.

Prosecutors were still deciding whether to file charges against Netanyahu’s former personal lawyer and cousin, David Shimron, and were leaning toward indicting him on money laundering charges, according to the reports.

The Justice Ministry declined to comment.

David Shimron, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, at a Likud press conference in Tel Aviv, February 1, 2015. (Flash90)

Ganor, who initially signed a deal to become the prosecution’s key witness in the case, has 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.

This file photo taken on January 12, 2016, shows the German-made INS Rahav Dolphin 2-class submarine arriving at the military port of Haifa on January 12, 2016. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Police laid out the details of the case when they concluded the investigation in November 2018 and handed it to prosecutors with the recommendation that numerous indictments be brought against senior figures in the Israeli defense elite, as well as several close confidants of the prime minister.

The officials suspected of receiving illicit payments from Ganor, who worked as Thyssenkrupp’s agent from 2009 to 2017, are Shimron; Bar-Yosef; Marom; the former director of Netanyahu’s bureau, David Sharan; Brig. Gen (res.) Shay Brosh, former commander of the navy’s elite Shayetet 13 commando unit; and former minister Eliezer Sandberg.

Ganor is suspected of paying Shimron a total of NIS 270,000 ($75,400) for using the latter’s association with Netanyahu to promote the Israeli Navy purchases from Thyssenkrupp. He also allegedly paid former minister Eliezer Sandberg. more than NIS 100,000 ($27,900) for advancing Ganor’s interests as the shipbuilder’s representative in Israel.

Additionally, Ganor allegedly paid a total of some NIS 130,000 ($36,300) to Sharan in return for the advancement of Ganor’s interests in the deals, through middlemen  who were meant to disguise the bribery.

According to police conclusions, Marom and Bar-Yosef helped Ganor get appointed as Thyssenkrupp’s representative. Ganor is suspected of later paying Marom NIS 600,000 ($167,500) disguised as consultation fees.

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