Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday denied that he was using a close confidant to broker the purchase of German submarines following a Channel 10 report broadcasted earlier in the week.
"This is the first time that the prime minister has been made aware of David Shimron's involvement in the project," a statement from his office explains.
Shimron is the premier's personal lawyer and relative.
The statement continues by noting that he only became aware of the lawyer's participation after Channel 10 sought comment from the premier.
"Shimron never discussed with the prime minister issues concerning submarines, ships or anything else related to his personal clients," the PMO statement contends.
"Everyone around the prime minister, especially David Shimron, are well aware that the premier is strictly prohibited from contacting him about business interests."
The statement concludes by stating that any insinuation that the prime minister used his office to influence the submarine transaction for the Navy "is false and devoid of any basis in reality."
Earlier Saturday, former defense minister Ehud Barak wrote on social media that the state has an "obligation to investigate" possible impropriety in the purchase of the Navy weaponry.
"Submarines are vital, but more essential is the public trust," Barak wrote on Twitter. "There are a lot of question marks," he continued, adding "therefore, as [Zionist Union MK Isaac Herzog] suggested, there's an obligation to investigate."
According to Channel 10, Shimron worked with Miki Ganor, the representative of the German company building the submarines, to move the maintenance service of the submarines to a shipyard owned by Ganor’s company. The two are said to have attempted to get the consent of the workers at the shipyard, meeting with Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn as well as the chairman of the IDF workers.
Following the report, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit on Thursday asked State Attorney Shai Nitzan to examine the arms acquisition from Germany.
Mandelblit, the government’s legal adviser, asked Nitzan, in charge of the state prosecution, to check whether Netanyahu’s lawyer violated a conflict of interest agreement.
According to an investigation by Haaretz
published on Thursday, Shimron not only provides legal representation for Miki Ganor, ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel, but also was a director at M.G. 2015, which reportedly was advising ThyssenKrupp in 2013. M. Ganor Yam 2012 was owned directly by Ganor until it was transferred to M.G. 2015 last year.
ThyssenKrupp is the German submarine maker that sold the Israeli Navy its newest Dolphin- class submarines.
In a letter to Mandelblit, Shimron wrote that he did not represent Ganor or his company in its dealings with Israel, nor did he mediate between the company and Israel, saying he only represented Ganor in dealing with Germany.
“I did not meet or speak with security officials on the matter,” Shimron wrote.
ThyssenKrupp itself has been accused of being involved in bribing officials around the world to promote sales of its submarines. According to the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt
, ThyssenKrupp launched an internal investigation into suspicions that employees of its Marine Force International subsidiary had bribed officials in Greece, Turkey, South Korea, Pakistan and Indonesia.
Channel 10 reported on Wednesday that Shimron had pushed Netanyahu to reach the submarine deal with the German company even though he faced stiff opposition from the Israeli military establishment, including then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon.Anna Ahronheim and Gil Hoffman contributed to this article.