A senior police official said Thursday that the details in a case of suspected bribery involving the purchase of military submarines worth hundreds of millions of dollars were so astounding that investigators were initially loath to believe the state witness who supplied them.
The official spoke after police asked state prosecutors to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former lawyer and five other high-profile figures on bribery charges in what has been called one of the largest graft schemes in the country’s history.
“The submarine affair is a watershed moment for defense procurement, just like the Bus 300 Affair was for the security establishment,” said the police source, who spoke to the media on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to disclose details of the case.
The so-called Bus 300 Affair involved the 1984 storming by security forces of a bus whose passengers had been kidnapped by four Palestinian terrorists. Although authorities reported that all of the terrorists were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces, it later transpired two were taken alive and later killed. An investigation eventually led to the resignation of the head of the Shin Bet security service.
Netanyahu himself is not suspected in the naval vessel affair, known as Case 3000, but has been questioned by police over the suspicions, which revolve around Israel’s acquisition of submarines manufactured by the German industrial giant Thyssenkrupp.
A key figure 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 police source said that Ganor “exposed us to a world of strategic business procurement. He told us how it worked in practice, how decisions are made for state defense, in this case the decisions concerning the purchase of hundreds of millions of euros worth of vessels.
“We tend to think that these decisions are made based on formal meetings, but to our chagrin we found out how they are really made — casually, with a wave of the hand; how extraneous considerations are introduced in order to make money,” he said.
The source said that, at first, Ganor’s story was so incredible prosecutors weren’t going to sign him up as a state witness.
“It sounded made up,” he said. But as the investigation continued they found he was telling the truth.
“Those surroundings the prime minister dealt with advancing the interests of Miki Ganor,” the source said. “Still, all of them claimed that the prime minister was unaware of Ganor’s interests.”
Concerning the prime minister’s possible involvement, the source asserted, “In this case, there is no evidence to tie him to the investigated criminal suspicions.”
Authorities said Thursday 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 Walla news site reported that the investigation filled 200 folders, including dozens of recordings — some of which captured alleged offenses as they were committed. The recordings were provided by state witness Ganor and featured senior figures such as Marom, Bar-Yosef, and Shimron.
The probe relates to the period of Ganor’s work for ThyssenKryupp between 2009 and 2017.
The suspects are accused of offenses including bribery, fraud, breach of trust, money laundering and other lesser charges, police said in a statement.
Under his 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).
The police recommendations will now be reviewed by state prosecutors, who will decide whether to press charges.