Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told police Tuesday he had been unaware of the ties of his personal lawyer and cousin David Shimron to the local representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, as he gave testimony in a corruption investigation surrounding the purchase of submarines and other naval vessels from the company.
Investigators questioned the prime minister at his official residence in Jerusalem for five hours over the so-called Case 3000, in which the premier is not a suspect. It was the first time the prime minister was questioned about the case.
According to the Ynet news site, most of Netanyahu’s testimony focused on the procedures of weapons purchases. The prime minister reportedly gave detailed answers on how decisions were made, and asserted that the government’s conduct in the matter had been faultless.
Case 3000 involves suspicions that state officials were paid bribes to influence a decision to purchase four patrol boats and three Dolphin-class submarines costing a total of 2 billion euros from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition to the deal by the Defense Ministry.
Police said in a statement that Netanyahu “gave testimony over a period of several hours” in the probe.
“The investigation is being conducted under the supervision and oversight of the state prosecutor and with the approval of the attorney general,” the statement continued. “Beyond that, we cannot elaborate on additional details from ongoing investigations.”
A spokesperson for the Netanyahu family said the prime minister “detailed all the professional considerations which guided his decision-making in the matter of the submarines and naval vessels, and their importance to the security of the country.”
“The prime minister welcomed the opportunity to clarify the complete picture and to finally put an end to the false claims that have been made against him by politicians and others,” the spokesperson said.
A number of Netanyahu’s close confidants have been arrested as part of the case.
Police are reportedly set to recommend indicting five suspects in the case, including Shimron, and Netanyahu’s former adviser and confidant Yitzchak Molcho.
Police suspect that Molcho tried to push the submarine deal during his diplomatic trips abroad, while Shimron, Molcho’s legal partner, sought to promote the interests of the German shipbuilders within Israel.
Shimron has been questioned several times as part of the investigation by the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit. In addition to his work with Netanyahu, he served as a lawyer for Miki Ganor, who was ThyssenKrupp’s local representative and who turned state’s witness in July. Shimron is considered a key suspect in the case.
Though he is not suspected in Case 3000, Netanyahu has faced investigators nine times since the beginning of 2017 in connection with three other corruption cases in which he is a suspect.
The state prosecution is currently considering whether to indict the prime minister in two corruption probes, Case 1000 and Case 2000, after police in February recommended putting Netanyahu on trial in both. In Case 1000 Netanyahu and his wife are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors. Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes.
Police are still conducting a third probe, Case 4000, involving suspicions that Netanyahu advanced regulatory decisions benefiting Bezeq controlling shareholder Shaul Elovitch in exchange for flattering coverage of the Netanyahus from the Elovitch-owned Walla news site.
The Netanyahus have denied any wrongdoing.