Thursday, October 29, 2020

Israel: Prosecutors charge PM Netanyahu’s cousin and other associates with bribery in submarine procurement graft scandal

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State prosecutors announced charges Thursday against former defense officials and associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, including his cousin who was his former lawyer, in a major graft case involving alleged corruption in the purchase of naval vessels.

Case 3000, as it is known, centers on a possible conflict ‎of ‎interest surrounding the multi-billion-shekel procurement of military boats and submarines from German shipbuilder ‎Thyssenkrupp in 2016. Prosecutors allege Israeli officials were bribed to push a massive deal for the vessels worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The case has been described by some as the biggest graft scandal in Israel’s history.

A statement from the Justice Ministry said Miki Ganor, Thyssenkrupp’s former agent in Israel, was being charged with bribery, money laundering and tax offenses, as was Eliezer Marom, a former head of the Israeli Navy.

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The ministry also announced charges of bribery, breach of trust and money laundering against David Sharan, a former aide to Netanyahu and to Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz, as well as charges of bribery, money laundering, fraud, breach of trust and tax offenses against former minister Eliezer Sandberg.

Rami Taib, a former political adviser to Steinitz, was to be charged with brokering bribery and Yitzhak Lieber, a media consultant with ties to Sharan, was to be charged with money laundering and assisting tax offenses.

David Shimron, Netanyahu’s former personal lawyer and cousin, will be charged with money laundering.

Ganor and Sharan also face charges of violating a law regulating political parties.

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All the charges were pending a pre-indictment hearing.

The statement did not specify whether Avriel Bar-Yosef, former deputy national security adviser, would be charged in the case, but described allegedly corrupt ties he had with Ganor.

According to prosecutors, Bar-Yosef first approached Ganor about becoming Thyssenkrupp’s representative in Israel because he “wanted to derive financial benefit.” He then allegedly enlisted Marom, who was head of the navy at the time, to help lobby for Ganor’s appointment. Ganor later replaced Yishaya Barkat as Thyssenkrupp’s representative in the country.

“During the meetings Ganor, Marom and Bar-Yosef held from the start of 2009… an understanding, agreement and expectation was formulated between them by which Marom and Bar-Yosef would receive compensation from Ganor for their work in favor of his appointment,” the statement said.

Ganor allegedly went on to pay two hundred thousand shekels in total, with prosecutors accusing Bar-Yosef of working to advance naval purchases while serving as deputy national security adviser.

The Justice Ministry statement also detailed allegedly corrupt ties Ganor had with Sharan and Sandberg, whom he is accused of bribing in exchange for advancing his interests, as well as suspected money laundering by Shimron on Ganor’s behalf.

Shimron dismissed the pending money laundering charge against him and predicted the matter will be dropped after the hearing ahead of the filing of formal charges.

“I got the charge sheet and looked at it. There’s no submarines. There’s no bribery. There’s no fraud. So what is there? A technical violation that has been described in a pompous manner with considerable error,” he said, according to reports in Hebrew media.

Ganor initially signed a deal to become the prosecution’s key witness in the case in which he reportedly admitted to bribing a string of senior officials in order to help secure contracts for the company with Israel’s Defense Ministry.

But in a shock move in March, he told police that he wished to alter key parts of the testimony he gave in the case. Ganor claimed that while he stood behind the facts he had given to police, the payments he gave were consulting fees and not bribes. He said police had pressured him to describe the circumstances so that they shored up the claim he had acted to bribe senior state employees.

That move reportedly came after Ganor discovered that signing a state witness agreement had put his name on an international banking blacklist and blocked his access to tens of millions of shekels held in banks in Cyprus and Austria.

In May, state prosecutors informed Ganor that his deal with the state had been canceled, stripping him of his immunity from prosecution in the case. He had been set to plead guilty only to tax evasion charges and serve a year-long prison sentence as part of the arrangement.

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The high-profile investigation ensnared several close associates of Netanyahu, but the premier himself was not a suspect.

Netanyahu has been charged with fraud and breach of trust in three separate graft cases, as well as bribery in one of them. He denies wrongdoing.

 

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