(photo credit: OHAD TZVEIGENBERG/POOL)
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz’s political adviser Rami Tayeb was arrested and questioned on Monday by the Lahav 433 National Crime Unit over suspicion of bribery, conspiracy to commit a crime and money laundering, in an investigation known as Case 3000.
Former minister Eliezer Zandberg was also arrested on Monday and questioned over bribery suspicions. The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended his remand for two days.
Police extended Tayeb’s remand for three days.
Case 3000, which was also dubbed the “submarines affair,” is a police corruption investigation into Israel’s purchase of German-made naval vessels.
The latest development follows the arrest on Sunday of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s former chief of staff David Sharan
, and the questioning of former National Security Council deputy head Avriel Bar-Yosef and political strategist Tzachi Lieber, who all worked in Steinitz’s office in the past.
Lieber was also arrested on Sunday alongside his partner Natan Mor. According to reports, the two transferred bribe money to state officials.
Steinitz himself is reportedly to be summoned for testimony in the near future. However, there is no evidence that ties Steinitz to any corrupt activity.
Channel 2 News quoted Steinitz’s response to this wave of his associates’ arrests, saying that it struck him out of the blue.
“I am known as one of the most decent people, I am very strict [on these matters]. I was never looking for more money,” he said.
Netanyahu says Israel Naval submarine contract with Germany is only for strengthening security , amid corruption probe , Nov.23.16 (credit: REUTERS)
Regarding the arrest of Sharan and Bar-Yosef, Steinitz said he never noticed anything wrong about them.
“I never saw [even] a tiny trace of corruption among them. Bar-Yosef arrived [at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Steinitz chaired] directly from the military; I did not notice any problem.”
Steinitz said no one warned the cabinet that there was a problem with the deal, and added that decisions regarding submarines and naval vessels are up to the prime minister and the security system, not the finance or energy ministers – positions that he filled over the years.
He also said that if summoned to testify, he would fully cooperate with the law enforcement authorities.
It is believed that Zandberg, while working as head of United Israel Appeal, was allegedly transferring bribe money to state officials in the name of Miki Ganor, the Israeli representative of the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp who became a state’s witness in the “submarine affair” in late July.
The questioning of Zandberg reportedly focused on the nature of the relationship between him and Ganor. Zandberg represented a South Korean company in a naval purchase deal that was canceled. Zandberg reportedly received some NIS 100,000 from Ganor in order to advance his business.
Talking to Channel 2 News, Zandberg confirmed he received such an amount of money from Ganor, but claimed that it wasn’t a bribe.
Zandberg said that, at the time, he wanted to become a permanent adviser at Ganor’s company and to establish business relations with him.
“I wanted to make business with him, to mediate in his deals and to make him interested in my deals. I wanted to import jeeps from Turkey, but it didn’t work out,” he said.
Zandberg became an MK in 1992 with Tzomet, then joined the Likud-Gesher-Tzomet union in 1996. In 1999 he moved to the Center Party, and later that year switched to Tommy Lapid’s Shinui Party. In 2003 he was appointed science and technology minister, a post in which he served until 2004, when his party left the coalition.
Since 2010 he has been the chairman of United Israel Appeal.
Zandberg’s attorney Yuval Zamar said nothing was done behind closed doors, adding that Ganor is trying to bring everyone down with him.
Zamar added that there’s no denial of Zandberg’s business connection with Ganor, but nothing was done illegally. “It is all a matter of interpretation,” he said.