State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan said Thursday he intends to indict seven men, including close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a sweeping graft case related to a possible conflict of interest involving a $2 billion purchase of German submarines.
Nitzan’s office said in a statement the seven would be charged with various offenses, among them bribery, money laundering and fraud, pending a hearing.
Among those facing charges are Netanyahu’s personal attorney, David Shimron, who is also his cousin. Shimron represented Thyssenkrupp, the German ship maker involved, and was suspected of using his influence over the prime minister in return for a hefty cut of the deal.
Thyssenkrupp has said an internal probe found no evidence of corruption in its handling of the 2016 contract for the sale of the submarines to Israel, and prosecutors have taken no action against the conglomerate.
Also set to be indicted is David Sharan, who once served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff. Former commander of the Israel Navy Admiral Eliezer Marom is also facing charges.
The Justice Ministry said prosecutors accepted recommendations made by police last year to indict Shimron, Sharan, Marom and businessman Miki Ganor, who was Thyssenkrupp's local agent.
Pending the pre-trial hearings, Shimron will be charged with money laundering; Sharan, Marom and Ganor will face that charge as well as bribery, the Justice Ministry said.
All the suspects have denied any wrongdoing.
The submarine deal has been under public scrutiny since it emerged that Shimron also represented Ganor, raising concerns of a conflict of interest.
After seeming to escape the submarine scandal, it was revealed that Netanyahu reportedly earned $4 million on a related German submarine sale to Egypt by owning shares in one of the German manufacturer’s suppliers. He has denied wrongdoing.
Netanyahu was recently charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate corruption cases in which he is accused of trading regulatory or legislative favors in exchange for lavish gifts and favorable news coverage.
The prime minister has professed innocence in all three, saying the charges are trumped up by a biased justice system egged on by a liberal media.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, is fighting for his political life following two inconclusive elections and the likelihood of an unprecedented third in one year.
With the charges against him issued amid the political impasse, Netanyahu has driven up his rhetoric against his perceived enemies, berating law enforcement institutions and calling for “the investigators to be investigated.”
First published: 16:27 , 12.05.19