The former commander of the Israeli navy told investigators probing a suspected bribery scandal surrounding a massive deal to purchase naval vessels from a German shipbuilder that he played a role in helping a businessman at the center of the affair, but denied taking any kickback money, according to reports Wednesday.
Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom is being held under house arrest. He was grilled by investigators for a second time Wednesday for some nine hours. Marom is a main suspect in the so-called Case 3000, in which authorities are investigating alleged corruption and bribery involved in multi-billion-shekel naval deals with the German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp.
According to Channel 2 news, Marom told police that businessman Miki Ganor, also a suspect in the case, asked him to recommend his selection as the Israeli representative of the shipbuilder, to which he agreed, but he denied he received any financial benefit as a result.
Marom is the most senior military figure ever to have been arrested in Israel’s history, according to Channel 2 news. He will remain confined to his home until Thursday.
According to Hebrew media reports, police suspect Marom controlled a bank account in Cyprus used to transfer bribe money from ThyssenKrupp officials to Israelis. He is also suspected of pushing the German company to replace its former Israeli representative, Yishaya Barkat, with Ganor.
Marom admitted he has accounts in Cyprus but insisted that any money transferred to them was from other business dealings he has, and was not connected to the submarine deal, Israel’s Channel 10 news reported.
On Tuesday, the Ynet news website reported that 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 the ongoing investigation.
Police initially withheld the names of the suspects. However, it was later revealed that two of the suspects are former deputy head of the National Security Council Avriel Bar-Yosef and ThyssenKrupp’s Israeli agent Ganor. David Shimron, a personal lawyer to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was grilled Wednesday for a third straight day.
The suspects were questioned on suspicions of fraud, bribery, tax evasion and money laundering, the Israel Police and the Tax Authority said in a joint statement Monday.
“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 Shimron 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 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.
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