Israel Police and the State Attorney’s Office are seeking to oust two associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from their current posts in public bodies over their roles in a billion-dollar purchase of naval vessels from Germany that is now under criminal investigation, the Ynet news site reported Monday.
David Sharan, CEO of the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company, and Eliezer (Moodi) Sandberg, world chairman of Keren Hayesod (United Israel Appeal), were both implicated by state’s witness Miki Ganor, who had been the local representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp.
Sharan is a former Netanyahu chief of staff and Sandberg was a minister over a decade ago.
Israeli authorities held an urgent meeting Monday to discuss how to sack the pair, following the expiration of orders prohibiting them from appearing at their respective offices, Ynet reported.
In the probe, dubbed Case 3000, investigators suspect that state officials were bribed to influence a decision to buy three submarines, as well as corvettes to patrol Israel’s gas fields, from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the Defense Ministry.
Authorities suspect that Ganor, along with former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, paid bribes to officials — among them Sharan and Sandberg — in connection with the decision to buy the vessels from ThyssenKrupp.
Ganor reportedly told police during questioning that he gave Sharan roughly NIS 80,000 ($22,761) in cash while he served as head of the Prime Minister’s Bureau in order to advance the deal.
Sharan served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief from late 2014 to 2016. A lieutenant colonel in the IDF reserves and former chief of staff to Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, he is a longtime Likud operative and confidant of the prime minister.
Sandberg served short stints as minister of science and technology and minister of national infrastructure in 2003 and 2004. He led the Likud party’s coalition talks after the 2009 elections that saw Netanyahu become prime minister despite having won one seat less than his rival Tzipi Livni of the Kadima party. He was initially appointed to serve as Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, a position seen as one of the most influential within the Prime Minister’s Office, but he withdrew before assuming the role, citing personal reasons.
In early September, Sandberg was questioned at the police’s anti-corruption unit Lahav 433 in Lod before being formally arrested on suspicion of fraud, breach of trust, and conspiring to commit a crime.
Later that month, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court released Sharan to a 10-day house arrest after remanding the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company CEO two days prior.
While Netanyahu is not a suspect in the submarine probe, dubbed Case 3000, his personal lawyer and cousin, David Shimron, has been questioned several times by the police’s anti-corruption unit Lahav 433.
On Sunday Hebrew media reported that police offered Shimron the chance to turn state’s witness in Case 3000.
According to Hadashot news (formerly Channel 2), Shimron has so far resisted the offer, which police put on the table in the hope that he would implicate “very senior” figures.
Netanyahu is facing two other criminal investigations, known as Case 1000 and Case 2000. He has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
Case 1000 revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan. Netanyahu was questioned for the sixth time Sunday at his official residence in Jerusalem in connection with the case.
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 weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.