Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu climbs out after a visit inside the Rahav, the fifth submarine in the fleet, after it arrived in Haifa's port.
(photo credit: BAZ RATNER/REUTERS)
Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit denied a report on Tuesday that he and the police had escalated an initial review of new potential links between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Case 3000, the Submarines Affair.
The unusual denial came following a Yediot Aharonot report that a new witness’s testimony about criminal conduct by Netanyahu in Case 3000 had led to the escalation.
Instead, a combination of responses by Mandelblit and the police painted a picture of one witness coming forward to the police on his own on Monday with law enforcement still far from certain about the significance of the alleged new evidence.
In the Submarines Affair, the police have recommended bribery charges against several top former Netanyahu associates for skimming off the top of deals between Israel and the German company ThyssenKrupp for submarines capable of launching nuclear-tipped missiles.
At this stage, Mandelblit has not changed the status of the initial review, which his office confirmed on March 14, shortly before the election.
Rather, there is a small prosecution staff going over the basic financial issues to clarify the legal questions at stake.
Until March 14, Netanyahu had not even been a suspect in the multi-year probe.
The Jerusalem Post has learned that it is not even clear yet whether the real issues have any connection to the submarines or whether the weak points for Netanyahu and his cousin and would-be donor, Natan Milikovsky, are potential false financial reporting or illegal omission of reporting financial issues.
The police will only jump on this fully once an initial framework is configured and it appears to suggest criminal conduct, a point that had not been reached as of Tuesday.
In February, it emerged that when Netanyahu purchased 1.7% of the shares in the company NMDM in 2007 for around $600,000. NMDN was a supplier for ThyssenKrupp, which later manufactured and sold submarines to Israel and Egypt.
At some point, NMDM merged with Graftech International, and in 2010 Netanyahu sold his shares to his cousin Natan Milikovsky for around $4,300,000.
This was more than a year after he became prime minister.
In July 2014, the Defense Ministry opened bidding for offering submarines to Israel. Reportedly, a representative for the prime minister tried to push the ministry to choose ThyssenKrupp one week later.
Sometime between 2014 and 2015, Netanyahu also told German officials that Israel would remove its longstanding opposition to the Germans selling submarines to Egypt.
Netanyahu kept the Defense Ministry and the IDF in the dark regarding aspects of purchasing the submarines and about removing opposition to Germany’s sale of submarines to Egypt.
No one has linked Netanyahu’s conduct directly to any possible crimes to date, but the witness who came forward to the police on Monday reportedly said that the prime minister did not pay or report as required by law.
Netanyahu’s spokesman rejected the latest report as an attempt to drag the prime minister down out of frustration that he just won reelection to his fifth term in office.
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