A dolphin-class submarine constructed by German company Howaldtswerke- Deutsche Werft for the Israel Navy.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
The police probe into the “Submarine Affair” has developed into a full-blown criminal investigation. The affair concerns allegations that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, David Shimron, lobbied defense officials on behalf of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp for a multi-billion shekel submarine sale; Netanyahu is not a suspect in the investigation.
State Attorney Shai Nitzan is expected to announce the criminal investigation, termed “Case 3000” by police, in the coming days, Channel 10 reported. Recent testimony to police from former OC Israel Navy vice-admiral Ram Rothberg has allegedly substantiated suspicions leading to the criminal investigation.
Shimron; Miki Ganor, ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel; and former Israel Navy commander vice-admiral Eliezer Marom will be questioned under caution in the investigation, according to the report.
Questions over the 2014 submarine deal surfaced in November with a Channel 10 report that Shimron worked for the Israeli representative of ThyssenKrupp and pushed to buy submarines from the firm over the objections of the defense establishment, including then-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. Ya’alon has reportedly given testimony in the case. Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit soon opened an initial probe of the allegations.
ThyssenKrupp, which sold the Israel Navy its newest Dolphin-class submarines, has been accused of bribing officials around the world to promote sales of its submarines. According to the German financial newspaper Handelsblatt
, ThyssenKrupp opened an internal investigation into suspicions that employees of its Marine Force International subsidiary had bribed officials in Greece, Turkey, South Korea, Pakistan and Indonesia.
In July 2014, the Defense Ministry issued tenders for the ship purchases after negotiations to buy from Germany fell through. A few months later, the navy requested that the tender be frozen, after Germany signaled its renewed willingness to reach a deal with Israel. A month later, the Defense Ministry froze the tender, and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the purchase of the ships in December 2014.
Ya’alon reportedly testified to police investigators against the prime minister in the affair. Ya’alon reportedly offered the police details about the contacts Netanyahu held with German officials regarding the acquisition of three submarines and several other warships, which happened without the knowledge of the security establishment. Nevertheless, Netanyahu is not a suspect in the criminal investigation.
Israel has three Dolphin-class submarines and two Dolphin 2-class submarines (another one is expected to be delivered in 2018). The Dolphin 2-class submarines are expected to replace the older Dolphins at a combined cost of NIS 5 billion ($1.3b.) Meanwhile, new details emerged in a separate criminal investigation against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding alleged illegal gifts from billionaires. According to a report in Haaretz
, the prime minister asked Israeli Hollywood movie mogul Arnon Milchen to supply his wife, Sara, with jewelry worth tens of thousands of shekels.
This would contradict Netanyahu’s statement to police that he was unaware of any gifts provided by Milchen to Sara Netanyahu.
Police are also reportedly seeking to question Australian billionaire James Packer for his alleged involvement in giving the Netanyahu family gifts, however, they have been unsuccessful in coordinating a meeting as Packer is suffering from "personal problems". According to the report, police already have testimony from Packer's employee, Hadas Klein, making the billionaire's testimony less important to the investigation.
Gil Hoffman and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.