Police recommend charging ex-Netanyahu lawyer, others in submarine bribery case

Police recommend charging ex-Netanyahu lawyer, others in submarine bribery case

David Shimron among those accused of bribery, fraud and other charges in naval acquisitions scheme with German shipbuilder; PM’s former adviser Molcho cleared

An Israeli submarine sails during Independence Day celebrations marking 70 years since the founding of the state in 1948, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP/Ariel Schalit)
An Israeli submarine sails during Independence Day celebrations marking 70 years since the founding of the state in 1948, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Thursday, April 19, 2018. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Police on Thursday asked state prosecutors to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former lawyer and other high profile figures over bribery suspicions involving the purchase of military naval vessels worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in what has been called one of the largest graft schemes in the country’s history.

Authorities said they had evidence to indict David Shimron, Netanyahu’s cousin and former attorney; former National Security Council deputy head Brig. Gen (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef; former navy chief Eliezer Marom; David Sharan, a former Netanyahu chief of staff; Brig. Gen (res.) Shay Brosh and former minister Eliezer Sandberg.

The six are accused of offenses including bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and other lesser charges, police said in a statement.

Police said the investigation had revealed numerous faults in government bodies’ operating practices in relation to defense acquisitions, and called for a serious review in order to improve the process and prevent illegal schemes from recurring.

The police recommendations will now be reviewed by state prosecutors who will need to decided whether to prosecute.

(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)

Police said there was insufficient evidence to recommend indicting Netanyahu’s former adviser and confidant Yitzhak Molcho, who had also been linked to the case.

Shimron is suspected of pushing for a NIS 6 billion ($1.5 billion) defense contract to purchase submarines for the Israeli Navy and other vessels for protecting the country’s maritime natural gas fields, an effort that could have netted him a hefty fee. Netanyahu’s own role in the purchase decision, including his insistence that Thyssenkrupp be exempted from the usual Defense Ministry tender process, raised concerns of a conflict of interest for Shimron. Part of the agreement allegedly being pushed by Shimron would also have seen ThyssenKrupp construct a lucrative shipyard in Israel, where the company would maintain the new vessels.

Netanyahu himself is not suspected in the case, but has been questioned as a witness by police over the suspicions.

A key figure in the case is Miki Ganor, a former agent for the German shipbuilder  and a former suspect, who in July 2017 signed an agreement to cooperate with the investigation.

The probe relates to the period of Ganor’s work for ThyssenKryupp between 2009 and 2017.

Shimron is suspected of mediating bribes, acting “on Ganor’s behalf as a representative of the German corporation in order to promote the deal between Israel and the corporation while using his status and closeness to the prime minister and public officials he worked with.”

He is also suspected of fraud and money laundering offenses in illicitly helping Ganor secure an investment in Swiss bank Credit Suisse.

Miki Ganor attends a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on July 21, 2017. (Flash90)

Bar-Yosef is suspected of helping Ganor become the representative of the German corporation. He then worked to promote the naval deals in return for a cut of Ganor’s fees.

Marom is suspected of colluding with Ganor and Bar Yosef to ensure Ganor’s appointment as ThyssenKryupp ‘s representative. As navy chief from 2007 to 2011 he advanced Israel’s deals with the company. For his efforts he allegedly received from Ganor NIS 600,000 ($163,000) in “consulting fees.”

IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Shay Brosh, right, is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court September 4, 2017. (Flash90)

Brosh, a private businessman and a friend of Bar Yosef, allegedly helped Ganor and Bar Yosef hide their bribery connection as an intermediary, in return for a fee.

Sharan is suspected of advancing Ganor’s interests in the government, for which he received a fee.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) with Eliezer Sandberg at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, October 24, 2010 (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Finally, Eliezer Sandberg, who in 2003-2004 served as minister of science and technology as a member of the now-defunct Shinui party, is suspected of using his position as director of Keren HaYesod – the United Israel Appeal fund to “open doors” for Ganor in the government and provide him with inside information on the naval deals.

Under the deal with prosecutors, Ganor reportedly agreed to serve one year in prison and pay a fine of up to NIS 10 million (some $2.7 million), in return for turning state’s witness.

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