Former Netanyahu bureau chief named as aide arrested in submarine probe

Suspected of receiving bribes, David Sharan among six detained in raids over corruption-tainted billion-dollar-deal with German shipyard

Raoul Wootliff is the Times of Israel's former political correspondent and producer of the Daily Briefing podcast.

David Sharan, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
David Sharan, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

A former bureau chief to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was named Sunday evening as one of the suspects arrested earlier in the day in raids as part of the ongoing corruption investigation into the multi-million-dollar purchase of naval vessels from Germany.

David Sharan, who served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief from late 2014 to 2016, is suspected of taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust and conspiring to commit a crime. His identity, initially withheld by a gag order, was cleared for publication by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court during his remand hearing on Sunday evening after he and five others were detained.

The court extended his arrest by five days, saying that “there is much more police work to be done in regard to the suspect.”

Sharan was appointed as bureau chief in November 2014, replacing longtime Netanyahu confidant Ari Harow. Last month, Harow agreed to turn state’s witness in two separate corruption investigations involving the prime minister, which are known as Case 1000 and Case 2000. Netanyahu has not been linked to suspected wrongdoing in the purchase of the German naval vessels, known as Case 3000.

Sharan resigned as chief of staff in August 2016 following a decision to cancel his appointment as cabinet secretary. He told Netanyahu at the time that he intended to “take a break from government service and consider some senior job proposals outside of the government,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said.

He has since served as the CEO of the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company,

A lieutenant colonel in the IDF reserves and former chief of staff to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz when Steinitz was finance minister, Sharan is a longtime Likud operative and confidant of the prime minister. His familiarity with American Jewry – he graduated high school in Los Angeles in 1988 — was reportedly a key reason Netanyahu appointed him to oversee talks with US Jewish religious movements over the establishment of an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall plaza.

Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair also known as ‘Case 3000,’ is brought for a court hearing at the Magistrate’s Court in Rishon Letzion, July 10, 2017. (Moti Kimchi/Pool)

The arrest of Sharan and five others Sunday comes in light of the police testimony of Miki Ganor, the Israeli agent of German shipbuilder ThyssenKryupp, who has turned state’s witness in the investigation.

Among those detained were also several senior IDF officers and strategic adviser Nati Mor, who has worked with several senior government officials.

A police statement on Sunday confirmed the arrests, and said the suspects’ homes and offices were searched “in order to seize documents relevant to the investigation.”

It said the six were being held for suspected financial and ethical offenses.

Investigators suspect that Ganor, along with former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, paid bribes in connection with the decision to buy three submarines from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the Israeli Defense Ministry.

They also reportedly influenced decisions to buy naval corvettes to protect Israel’s offshore gas fields and awarded ThyssenKrupp a contract to service other naval vessels.

While Netanyahu is not suspected in the case, his personal lawyer, David Shimron, has been questioned several times by police’s anti-corruption unit Lahav 433.

Ganor, who turned state’s witness in July, has claimed that Shimron (who was also his attorney) was to receive 20 percent of his own commission of $45 million, Channel 2 and Channel 10 reported last month.

Shimron was hired by Ganor to negotiate the ship and submarine purchases.

In a statement given to his attorneys, Shimron reportedly denied he was to receive a cut from the deal beyond his legal fees.

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

Ganor was suspected of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit a crime. He has reportedly been transferred to a police safe house.

In July, Germany indefinitely postponed signing the naval agreement with Israel, citing the expanding corruption investigation.

Although Netanyahu is not suspected in the case, he is being investigated in two other corruption cases that have also implicated other former senior aides in his office.

In Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister hobble a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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