Police said set to recommend indictments for PM confidants in submarines scandal
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Police said set to recommend indictments for PM confidants in submarines scandal

Netanyahu's lawyers, former chief of staff, national security pick and navy chief suspected of corruption in purchase of naval vessels from German shipbuilding company

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

(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)
(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 are planning to recommend indictments against the five main suspects in Case 3000, including two close advisers to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — David Shimron and Yitzhak Molcho — and the premier’s former bureau chief, David Sharan, Hadashot TV news reported Wednesday evening.

The three, as well as the former commander of the Israeli Navy Eliezer Marom and former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef, are suspected of corruption in Israel’s purchase of naval vessels from German shipbuilding company ThyssenKrupp.

Police will recommend indicting them in several weeks on a series of charges including bribery, breach of trust, fraud, and money laundering, the report said.

The recommendations, which inform the State Prosecution that investigators believe there is enough evidence to bring the suspects to trial, are reportedly based on testimony provided by state witness Miki Ganor, ThyssenKrupp’s local Israeli representative, as well as physical evidence collected during the year-long investigation.

Benjamin Netanyahu touring the INS Tanin submarine, built by the German firm ThyssenKrupp, as it arrived in Israel on September 23, 2014. (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90)

The investigation has focused on 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 from the Defense Ministry.

Responding to Wednesday’s report, police said the investigation was ongoing and no decisions on indictment recommendations had yet been made.

“When the investigation is completed and subject to its conclusions, we will announce if there is a basis of evidence [to prosecute],” a police statement said.

Attorney Itzhak Molcho at speaks with protesters at his office in Jerusalem on September 10, 2007. (Flash90)

Both Yitzchak Molcho, Netanyahu’s chief negotiator and personal envoy for over a decade, and his legal partner David Shimron, the prime minister’s cousin and personal attorney, were named as suspects in the investigation in November.

In a complicated web of relationships, Molcho is suspected of having tried to push the potentially elicit deals during diplomatic trips on behalf of the prime minister abroad, while Shimron allegedly sought to promote the interests of ThyssenKrupp within Israel.

David Shimron in Tel Aviv on February 17, 2015. (Ben Kelmer/Flash90)

Shimron, who has spent years defending Netanyahu against dozens of reports claiming malpractice and misuse of office for personal gain, served as a lawyer for Ganor in the latter’s capacity as ThyssenKrupp’s representative.

David Sharan, who served as Netanyahu’s bureau chief during the time the deal was being negotiated, is suspected of taking bribes, fraud, breach of trust and conspiring to commit a crime.

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

Avriel Bar-Yosef and Maj. Gen. (res) Eliezer Marom are reportedly suspected of taking bribes in return for influencing the decision to buy the ships and submarines. Marom is said to have admitted playing a role in encouraging the deal, but denies taking any kickback money.

Bar-Yosef had been nominated by Netanyahu in 2016 to serve as national security adviser, a top administration post, but withdrew his candidacy in July of that year after advocacy groups alleged the ex-aide received money from foreign business associates, constituting a conflict of interest.

Then Admiral Eliezer Marom, Commander of the Israel Navy, attends a memorial ceremony for the fallen soldiers of the Suez Crisis, at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, November 8, 2007. (Michal Fattal/Flash90.)

A brigadier-general in the IDF reserves, Bar-Yosef served for 25 years in the navy and was director of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, director of the Defense Budget Committee and deputy chief of the National Security Council.

In November, police recommended a raft of fraud and bribery charges against Bar-Yosef, accusing him of receiving bribes from a German businessman who invested hundreds of thousands of euros in a company run by Bar-Yosef’s close relative. In exchange, he advanced the interests of the German businessman, among other things in the development of Israel’s offshore natural gas reserves, police said. Those charges do not appear to be connected to the ThyssenKrupp deal.

Avriel Bar-Yosef attends a hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on July 24, 2017. (Flash90)

Netanyahu in not a suspect in what is known as Case 3000, though he remains under criminal investigation in two other corruption probes.

Case 1000 revolves around alleged illicit gifts given to Netanyahu and his family by billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels’ worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.

Case 2000 involves a suspected illicit quid pro quo deal between Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon “Noni” Mozes that would have seen the prime minister weaken a rival daily, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.

Netanyahu was questioned seven times in connection with the two cases. He denies all wrongdoing.

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