TV: Shipyard owned by Lebanese defense minister builds Israeli warships

Channel 2 says Zionist Union MK demanded A-G probe, claimed Israeli businessmen ‘pressured’ Abu Dhabi MAR into changing name to German Naval Yards Kiel

A Sa'ar 5-class corvette of the Israeli navy. (YouTube screen capture)
A Sa'ar 5-class corvette of the Israeli navy. (YouTube screen capture)

A company building warships for the Israel Navy is owned by the family of Samir Moqbel, who was Lebanon’s defense minister until last week, Channel 2 News reported Wednesday.

Construction of the four “Sa’ar 6 corvette” ships, commissioned to defend Israel’s offshore gas fields, was agreed in a 2015 deal between the Jewish state and German company ThyssenKrupp, which subcontracted the work to the Moqbel-owned shipyard, now called German Naval Yards Kiel. Under the 2015 deal, worth €430 million ($480 million), ThyssenKrupp is supplying Israel with the four warships over a period of five years.

According to Channel 2, the true ownership of the company emerged when Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit recently sent an urgent letter to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, calling on him to open an investigation into the affair. In the letter, Margalit wrote that he recently met with “senior sources” during a trip to Europe, who informed him of the true ownership of the shipyard.

Margalit also told Mandelblit that three unnamed Israeli businessmen representing the defense establishment — two former senior naval officers and a prominent attorney — “pressured” the shipyard, then named Abu Dhabi MAR, to change its name to German Naval Yards Kiel so as to cover up its links to the Arab world.

Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit (Flash 90)
Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit (Flash 90)

“The fact that one of the owners of the company building naval vessels for Israel is the defense minister of a country designated as an enemy state, and who, according to reports, cooperated with the Hezbollah organization and Iran, sets off a warning light,” the MK wrote.

Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper initially reported last week that the four ships are under construction in a shipyard owned by Lebanese and Abu Dhabi-based companies, but said officials insist no classified information about the warships is at risk.

Yedioth named the shipyard as Abu Dhabi MAR, calling it a major shipbuilder in the Persian Gulf that operates the docks where the vessels are being assembled.

Lebanese Defense Minister Samir Moqbel (Wikimedia Commons, Sgt. Mick Burke, CC BY 2.0)
Lebanese Defense Minister Samir Moqbel (Wikimedia Commons, Sgt. Mick Burke, CC BY 2.0)

The circumstances behind the arrangement are the outcome of a failed attempt several years by ThyssenKrupp and Abu Dhabi MAR to cooperate on military shipbuilding projects. A 2009 press release on the Thyssenkrupp website said it would deal with German navy and NATO contracts, while Abu Dhabi MAR was to handle business from the Middle East and North Africa.

In 2011, ThyssenKrupp announced that the deal with Abu Dhabi MAR was off, yet a small part of the agreement was completed, including the transfer of a shipyard in Kiel, Germany called HDW Gaarden to Abu Dhabi MAR. As a result, HDW Gaarden changed its name to Abu Dhabi MAR Kiel. The company website says it became German Naval Yards Kiel in 2015, but omits any mention of a link to Abu Dhabi MAR.

Yedioth said that the name change came two months before the Israel-ThyssenKrupp naval deal, and quoted sources as saying it was to ease the contract with Israel.

Abu Dhabi, which serves as the capital of the United Arab Emirates, does not recognize Israel and does not have official diplomatic or economic ties with the Jewish state. Israel and Lebanon do not have diplomatic ties either and under Israeli law its northern neighbor is considered an enemy state.

The Defense Ministry told Yedioth in a statement that “the contract to buy protective ships was signed with the German company, with direct involvement of the [German] government, that is even funding a third of the cost of the deal.”

The INS Rahav, a Dolphin class made by German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, sets off from the German port of Kiel toward Haifa, December 17, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
The INS Rahav, a Dolphin class made by German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, sets off from the German port of Kiel toward Haifa, December 17, 2015. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

In response to inquiries from Yedioth, German Naval Yards Kiel said it is a secondary contractor of ThyssenKrupp Sea Systems and that it contributes to the engineering of sailing vessels and to their construction in the Kiel shipyards. The company noted that all contact between the shipyard and Israeli officials was via ThyssenKrupp.

The latest revelation comes on the heels of reports that an Iranian government company owns 4.5 percent of ThyssenKrupp, which itself is at the center of a scandal over the provision of submarines and other services to the Israel Navy.

Mandelblit earlier this month ordered the police to look into allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, used his close relationship with the premier to push Israel to purchase several submarines from ThyssenKrupp, award the company the contract for the naval vessels to defend Israel’s Mediterranean gas fields, and allow it to build a shipyard in Israel. Shimron was a representative of the company in Israel.

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