Attorney General declines to defend Netanyahu before court in submarine affair

“In Israel, criminal investigations are not opened due to baseless speculation that someone committed a crime.”

December 14, 2016 05:55
2 minute read.
Avichai Mandelblit

Avichai Mandelblit and Netanyahu. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The State Attorney’s Office has declined to defend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against a petition to the High Court of Justice regarding the submarine affair, leaving the prime minister to send his personal lawyer to the court, an NGO said Tuesday.

The Movement for the Quality of Government in Israel filed the petition demanding that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit immediately open a full criminal investigation regarding accusations of impropriety in the ordering of submarines from Germany.

A spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office said that by definition the state could not represent Netanyahu in the High Court when it also was reviewing his actions in the case for possible criminality.

The builder of the submarines, the German company ThyssenKrupp, is already conducting its own internal probe into whether its sales representative in Israel, Miki Ganor, violated the company’s policy by subcontracting to Netanyahu’s lawyer and confidant David Shimron.

“We will investigate to find the facts because the facts are what count,” company spokesman Donatus Kaufmann told Channel 10 last month. “We didn’t hear from our sales representative Mr. Ganor that he subcontracted. If there has been a violation of our company policies, we would immediately stop and sanction him.”

Mandelblit previously announced a preliminary examination of the issue, but signaled that Netanyahu likely was in the clear and that only Shimron may end up on the hot seat.

Meanwhile, Mandelblit has ignored a letter from the NGO to swiftly move from the more benign preliminary review to a full criminal investigation, which would include interrogating the prime minister under caution.

Though seen by some as sidelining Shimron and potentially harming Netanyahu politically, Mandelblit has said: “In Israel, criminal investigations are not opened due to baseless speculation that someone committed a crime.”

Another ThyssenKrupp official, Martin Murphy, in November confirmed Israeli reports that the company had been compelled to fire its longtime representative and replace him with Ganor.

Former OC Navy v.-adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom and embattled former National Security Council chairman Avriel Bar-Yosef seven years ago threatened ThyssenKrupp that if it did not fire brig.-gen. (res.) Shaike Bareket and replace him with Ganor, Israel would not purchase more submarines from the company.

ThyssenKrupp officials said Ganor has since made more than €10 million representing the company.

Top lawyer Jacob Weinroth in November tried to put to rest any allegations in the submarine affair against Netanyahu and Shimron, noting that Shimron represented the German company, but not with regard to the submarines.

In an interview with Channel 2 News in last month, Weinroth said Shimron had represented ThyssenKrupp years before the submarine deal became an issue in an attempt to show that the firm brought him in without the deal in mind.

Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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