German prosecutors have opened a probe into the sale of submarines to Israel, at the request of the Israeli officials, the Handelsblatt newspaper reported Monday.
Investigators will look at possible bribery offenses connected to the deal being investigated in Israel as part of the so-called Case 3000, the report said, without elaborating.
The probe is being led by the chief prosecutor of the city of Bochum, whose office specializes in financial corruption cases.
The high-profile Israeli investigation known as Case 3000 has seen several close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspected of receiving bribes as part of a massive graft scheme in the multi-billion-shekel state purchase of naval vessels and submarines from German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp. Netanyahu has been a witness but not a suspect in the case.
In recent weeks, new suspicions have emerged that Netanyahu may have illicitly profited from selling shares in a company with ties to Thysennkrupp to his cousin, US businessman Nathan Milikowsky.
On Sunday Thysennkrupp denied that it builds submarines with parts purchased from the company, Seadrift Coke.
The State Prosecutor’s Office is reportedly considering a criminal probe against Netanyahu for failing to report his stock dealings to authorities, albeit not for their connection to the submarine deals.
According to a Channel 13 report on Thursday, prosecutors suspect Netanyahu misled the State Comptroller’s Office with regard to his financial assets.
The Blue and White party has made suspicions around Netanyahu’s links to the submarine sales a central component of their campaign ahead of the April 9 election, including allegations that the prime minister was acting improperly when he green-lit a Thyssenkrupp submarine sale to Egypt in 2014 or 2015, without notifying the IDF chief of staff — Gantz — or the defense minister — Moshe Ya’alon, No. 3 on Blue and White’s Knesset slate.
During a rare and contentious interview with Channel 12 news on Saturday, Netanyahu accused his main political rivals of a “blood libel” against him and said they were trying to force him to divulge state secrets by making an issue out of Israel not objecting to the Egypt deal.
“Whoever needed to know, knew,” Netanyahu said, adding that Ya’alon was not among them.
In response, Gantz said in a video message: “Are you listening to yourself? Do you hear what you are saying? To talk about selling submarines as if its the personal decision of the prime minister without consulting with the defense minister? Without consulting with the IDF chief?”
Former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, Amos Yadlin, told Army Radio Sunday that the decision was “extremely unreasonable” and called for a state probe into the matter.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.