Energy minister reportedly questioned in submarine graft probe

Energy minister reportedly questioned in submarine graft probe

Though he is not considered a suspect, several close aides of Yuval Steinitz, including a family member, are allegedly involved in the scandal

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz attends the weekly government conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Flash90)
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz attends the weekly government conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, October 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Flash90)

Police have questioned Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz in recent weeks concerning suspected corruption in the multi-billion shekel purchase of naval vessels from a German shipbuilder, Hebrew media reported Sunday.

Police believe bribes were paid to influence the decision to buy three submarines and other ships from the German company.

The Walla news website said Steinitz was interviewed at the Lahav 433 serious crime unit about two weeks ago.

Several former aides to Steinitz, and others close to him, have been named as suspects in the matter, known as Case 3000. The minister himself has not been implicated.

Among those questioned in the past was Steinitz’s brother-in-law, and Aviad Shai, who served as an adviser to Steinitz when he was finance minister. Shai was arrested in September and brought in for questioning.

Steinitz reportedly told his associates at the time he was blindsided by the developments in the submarines probe, saying “No one in the security establishment warned the cabinet there was a problem with the deal.”

The INS Rahav, a Dolphin class made by German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, sets off from the German port of Kiel toward Haifa, December 17, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Others arrested last year in the case included David Sharan, who was chief of staff to Steinitz and then to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as senior aide to Steinitz Rami Taib, former minister Eliezer Sandberg and Shay Brosh, a former head of the Israel Navy’s commando unit.

The list of high-level officials arrested or questioned in the probe rapidly expanded in light of testimony given by Miki Ganor, who was the local representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, the company that manufactured the naval vessels bought by Israel in allegedly illicit circumstances. After being identified as a key suspect in the case, Ganor turned state’s witness in July.

Investigators suspect that Ganor, along with former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, paid bribes to secure the deal for ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the 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.

David Sharan at a remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, September 3, 2017. (Flash90)

While Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in connection with the investigation, and the attorney general and police chief have said he isn’t a suspect, a number of former aides and associates of his have been caught up in the unfolding case.

In addition to Sharan, the former bureau chief to Netanyahu, police have also named David Shimron, the prime minister’s lawyer and cousin; and Bar-Yosef, who had served on Netanyahu’s national security adviser, as suspects.

Netanyahu is currently under investigation in three other corruption cases, while maintaining his innocence in all of the probes.

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