Court orders state witness freed in subs case; prosecutors threaten to nix deal

Court orders state witness freed in subs case; prosecutors threaten to nix deal

Justice Ministry says Miki Ganor has violated the terms of his agreement by recanting his testimony in corruption investigation

Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair also known as  'Case 3000,' appears at Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, March 20, 2019 (Flash90)
Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair also known as 'Case 3000,' appears at Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, March 20, 2019 (Flash90)

The state prosecution on Thursday informed state’s witness Miki Ganor that a plea agreement struck with him last year in the submarine corruption investigation called Case 3000 could be rescinded, after he abruptly recanted his testimony in the high-profile probe.

A Justice Ministry statement said that by amending his testimony to police this week, Ganor has “violated the agreement and therefore the State is entitled to cancel the deal.”

Ganor’s lawyers have until Wednesday to submit an explanation for their client’s sudden change of heart.

Ganor was arrested on Tuesday after informing police of his intention to “change the version he gave during the investigation” into corruption suspicions around the purchase of submarines from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp for Israel’s navy. He said his confessions of bribing multiple officials had been given under duress and were not true.

The INS Rahav, a Dolphin class made by German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp, sets off from the German port of Kiel toward Haifa, December 17, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Ganor was remanded in custody Wednesday until next week, but on Thursday the Lod Magistrate’s Court accepted his appeal and ordered his release to house arrest until Sunday.

Judge Nava Bechor prohibited him from speaking to anyone involved in the Case 3000 investigation, and he was barred from leaving the country for the next four months.

“I don’t believe exceptional circumstances have arisen that justify keeping him in detention,” Bechor wrote in her decision, according to reports in Hebrew media. “This is an appropriate alternative to detention, and will dispel concerns of obstruction in the investigation.”

Ganor will not be released until Friday, to give police an opportunity to appeal the decision.

Prosecutors later submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court against the decision to release Ganor, according to the Justice Ministry.

A former agent in Israel for German shipbuilding company Thyssenkrupp, Ganor signed an agreement with prosecutors in July 2017 to cooperate in the probe, which focused on the period he worked for the company between 2009 and 2017. He has admitted to bribing a string of senior officials in order to help secure contracts for Thyssenkrupp with Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Police laid out the details of the case when they concluded the investigation in November 2018 and handed the case 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 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Netanyahu was questioned as a witness in the case and was not considered a suspect.

For Ganor’s role in aiding the police investigation, prosecutors agreed to set aside the major corruption charges against him and settle for a punishment only for his tax offenses in the case. The punishment included a 12-month prison sentence and a fine of NIS 10 million (roughly $2.7 million).

Following his request to change his testimony, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court agreed on Wednesday that suspicions leveled against Ganor — of obstructing an investigation, bribery, fraud and money laundering — should be re-investigated in light of his new version of events.

Benjamin Netanyahu touring the INS Tanin submarine, built by the German firm ThyssenKrupp, as it arrived in Israel on September 23, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

His change of heart came shortly after reports emerged that Netanyahu had sold stock in a company that supplied services to Thyssenkrupp.

Netanyahu has called allegations of impropriety on his part “contrived slander,” saying he “didn’t get a shekel from the submarine deal” and that the matter was “checked extensively by the prosecution and the attorney general, who stated unequivocally that I am not suspected of anything.”

On Wednesday, channels 12 and 13 reported state prosecutors were considering opening a criminal investigation into Netanyahu’s business connections to the multi-billion shekel naval vessel procurement deal.

Citing sources familiar with the case, the Channel 13 report said prosecutors recently received “dramatic” new information which prompted a review of the issue.

According to a Channel 13 report last week, the State Comptroller’s Office found that Netanyahu and his cousin Nathan Milikowsky were shareholders in a graphite electrodes manufacturing company, GrafTech International, a longtime supplier of Thyssenkrupp.

Having previously claimed he obtained the shares as a private citizen, Netanyahu has appeared to change his story, admitting he became a shareholder in 2007 while serving as the leader of the opposition, the Haaretz newspaper reported Monday. He sold his shares to Milikowsky in 2010, after he was elected prime minister, according to The Marker website.

Netanyahu is facing indictments, pending a hearing, in three other corruption cases. He has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.

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