Police recommend bribery charge against former state witness in submarine case

Police recommend bribery charge against former state witness in submarine case

Miki Ganor, who represented German shipbuilder and allegedly paid off defense officials and Netanyahu associates, lost immunity from prosecution after retracting his testimony

Israeli businessman Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair known as "Case 3000," at a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israeli businessman Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair known as "Case 3000," at a hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police have reportedly recommended to state prosecutors that lobbyist Miki Ganor be charged with bribery, after he rescinded key parts of his testimony and lost his status as a state witness in a high-profile investigation into suspected corruption in the purchase of naval vessels from Germany.

Police believe Israeli officials were bribed to push a massive deal for military vessels worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in what some have called the largest suspected graft scandal in the country’s history. The case has ensnared many associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but not the premier himself, who is facing corruption charges, pending a hearing, in three other case.

Ganor, a former agent in Israel for the German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp, was the prosecution’s key witness in the Case 3000 submarine acquisitions corruption investigation. He signed an agreement with prosecutors in July 2017 to become a state witness and cooperate in the probe, which focused on the period he worked for the company between 2009 and 2017. He admitted to bribing a string of senior officials in order to help secure contracts for Thyssenkrupp with Israel’s Defense Ministry.

But in a shock move in March, he told police that he wished to alter key parts of the testimony he gave in the case. Ganor claimed that while he stood behind the facts he had given to police, the payments he gave were consulting fees and not bribes. He said police had pressured him to describe the circumstances so that they shored up the claim he had acted to bribe senior state employees.

A general view of the headquarters of German heavy industry giant ThyssenKrupp AG in Essen, Germany, on December 11, 2012 . (AFP/ Patrik Stollarz/File)

That move reportedly came after Ganor discovered that signing a state witness agreement had put his name on an international banking blacklist and blocked his access to tens of millions of shekels held in banks in Cyprus and Austria.

In May, state prosecutors informed Ganor that his deal with the state had been canceled, stripping him of his immunity from prosecution.

Israel Police’s Lahav 433 anti-fraud unit has since conducted a series of investigative actions in the case, which recently concluded with a recommendation to prosecutors to indict Ganor on five counts of giving bribes and one count of receiving an illicit gift, in addition to six counts of money laundering, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Wednesday.

Despite the recent developments, all the recommendations against the other suspects in the case have remained unchanged, according to the report.

Police laid out the details of the case when they concluded the investigation in November 2018 and handed it to prosecutors with the recommendation that numerous indictments be brought against senior figures in the Israeli defense elite, as well as several close confidants of the prime minister.

The defense officials suspected of receiving illicit payments from Ganor are Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and cousin David Shimron; the former director of Netanyahu’s bureau, David Sharan; the former head of the Israeli Navy, Eliezer Marom; Brig. Gen (res.) Shay Brosh, former commander of the navy’s elite Shayetet 13 commando unit; Brig. Gen (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef, former deputy national security adviser; and former minister Eliezer Sandberg.

According to police conclusions, Marom and Bar-Yosef helped Ganor get appointed as Thyssenkrupp’s representative. Ganor is suspected of later paying Marom NIS 600,000 ($167,500) disguised as consultation fees.

(L-R) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron, his former diplomatic envoy Yitzhak Molcho, his former bureau chief David Sharan, former deputy national security adviser Avriel Bar-Yosef and former commander of the Israeli Navy Eliezer Marom. (Flash90)

Ganor is suspected of paying Shimron a total of NIS 270,000 ($75,400) for using the latter’s association with Netanyahu to promote the Israeli Navy purchases from Thyssenkrupp. He also allegedly paid Sandberg more than NIS 100,000 ($27,900) for advancing Ganor’s interests as the shipbuilder’s representative in Israel.

Additionally, Ganor allegedly paid a total of some NIS 130,000 ($36,300) to Sharan in return for the advancement of Ganor’s interests in the deals, through middlemen such as Brosh who were meant to disguise the bribery.

For Ganor’s role in aiding the police investigation, prosecutors had agreed in the since-nixed state witness agreement to set aside the major corruption charges against him and settle for a punishment only for his tax offenses in the case. The punishment included a 12-month prison sentence and a fine of NIS 10 million (roughly $2.7 million).

Confirming Wednesday’s report, Ganor’s attorney, Meir Ehrenfeld, said: “I am not surprised by the conclusions, and believe matters will be clarified later.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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