Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Prosecutors Open Criminal Investigation Into Submarines Affair

Raoul Wootlif, The Times of Israel
27 February 2017 

The State Attorney’s Office has opened a criminal investigation into the so-called submarines affair amid suspicions the prime minister’s personal lawyer tried to influence multi-million dollar naval deals, the Justice Ministry announced Monday. The statement said the decision to move from a preliminary inquiry to a full blown investigation was made by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit in light of the evidence and testimony gathered by police investigators over the past few months.   The case involves suspicions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal attorney David Shimron, acting also on behalf of the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, lobbied the Defense Ministry to purchase naval vessels — including new submarines for the Israel Navy as well as ships intended to protect the country’s maritime natural gas fields. According to suspicions, pushing through the NIS 6 billion ($1.5 billion) defense contract would net him a hefty fee, despite a possible conflicts of interest. Part of the agreement could also see ThyssenKrupp construct a lucrative shipyard in Israel, where the company would maintain the vessels. Netanyahu is not a suspect in the case, which the Justice Ministry emphasized in its statement on Monday.
The decision to open a formal criminal investigation was reportedly made after police received the testimony of former Israel Navy commander Maj. Gen. (res.) Ram Rothberg in early February. A Channel 2 report from earlier this month said Shimron, businessman Mickey Ganor and Maj. Gen. (res.) Eliezer Marom are all to be questioned under caution in the affair. In October of last year, Netanyahu announced in a cabinet meeting that Israel was in the process of negotiating the purchase of three new submarines for the navy, which currently maintains a fleet of five underwater vessels, with another slated to be delivered in coming years. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing in the multibillion-shekel deal for the submarines, saying that bolstering Israel’s long-term security needs was the “only consideration” behind the purchases. The new submarines were intended as replacements for the military’s older models and would reportedly be outfitted with nuclear strike capabilities.

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