State witness in submarine graft case remanded after asking to retract testimony

Miki Ganor, who had admitted to bribing officials to secure purchase of German naval vessels, jailed for 5 days; judge says suspicions should be reexamined

Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair also known as  'Case 3000,' appears at Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, March 20, 2019 (Flash90)
Miki Ganor, arrested in the submarine affair also known as 'Case 3000,' appears at Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, March 20, 2019 (Flash90)

The key witness in the Case 3000 naval acquisitions corruption investigation, which has ensnared several close confidants of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had his remand extended for five days on Wednesday after he suddenly asked to change parts of his testimony and was arrested.

Judge Einat Ron of the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court agreed that suspicions leveled against Miki Ganor — of obstructing an investigation, bribery, fraud and money laundering — should be re-investigated in light of Ganor’s new version of events.

Ganor, a former agent in Israel for the German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp, signed an agreement with prosecutors in July 2017 to cooperate in the probe, which focused on the period he worked for the company between 2009 and 2017. He has admitted to bribing a string of senior officials in order to help secure contracts for Thyssenkrupp with Israel’s Defense Ministry.

Police believe Israeli officials were bribed to push a massive deal for military naval vessels worth hundreds of millions of dollars, in what some have called the largest suspected graft scandal in the country’s history.

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)

Police laid out the details of the case when they concluded the investigation in November 2018 and handed the case 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 police announcement punctuated a long-running investigation into Israel’s purchase of submarines manufactured by Thyssenkrupp.

For Ganor’s role in aiding the police investigation, prosecutors agreed 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).

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has yet to announce whether he plans to file indictments in the case.

Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case, but the involvement of so many of his confidants and his own dealings with a separate company that had business transactions with Thyssenkrupp have been raised by his opponents in the current election.

Blue and White party member Moshe Ya’alon during a campaign event on March 18, 2019. (Courtesy: Blue and White)

Moshe Ya’alon, a senior candidate on the Blue and White slate who once served as defense minister under Netanyahu, on Wednesday said the prime minister’s actions in the case could amount to “treason.”

According to a Channel 13 news report last week, the State Comptroller’s Office has discovered that Netanyahu was once a shareholder in a company that supplies Thyssenkrupp.

Netanyahu has called allegations of impropriety on his part “contrived slander,” saying he “didn’t get a shekel from the submarine deal” and that the matter was “checked extensively by the prosecution and the attorney general, who stated unequivocally that I am not suspected of anything.”

According to the Channel 13 report last week, the State Comptroller’s Office found that Netanyahu and his cousin Nathan Milikowsky were shareholders in a graphite electrodes manufacturing company, GrafTech International, a longtime supplier of Thyssenkrupp.

Having previously claimed he obtained the shares as a private citizen, Netanyahu has appeared to change his story, admitting he became a shareholder in 2007 while serving as the leader of the opposition, the Haaretz newspaper reported Monday. He sold his shares to Milikowsky in 2010, after he was elected prime minister, according to The Marker website.

According to a statement by the Israel Police, Ganor visited the Lod headquarters of the police’s top anti-corruption unit, Lahav 433, on Tuesday evening and told investigators he wished to alter key parts of the testimony he gave in the case.

Ganor reportedly told police investigators, “I didn’t bribe anyone,” according to media reports not yet confirmed by police.

After making the unusual request, Ganor was immediately taken to the National Economic Crimes Unit, part of Lahav 433, where he was questioned under caution for suspected obstruction of justice.

He was arrested soon after, but was taken to a hospital later that night for an unspecified ailment.

Prosecutors are reportedly considering stripping him of his state’s witness status, a step that would remove his immunity from prosecution in the case.

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