Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's personal lawyer David Shimron contacted the Defense Ministry's legal advisor two years ago asking for a status report on a deal with the German shipyard he represents, according to a report Tuesday on Channel 10.
In an email written in 2014 by legal advisor Ahaz Ben-Ari, he tells then-Director General of the Ministry of Defense Dan Harel that Shimron "called me and asked to know whether or not we are stopping the bidding process with his client, as we were asked to do by the prime minister."
According to Channel 10, the bid Shimron references in the email was an international bid issued by the Ministry of Defense for the acquisition of vessels to protect Israel's natural gas rigs. German conglomerate ThyssonKrupp, represented by Israeli businessman Miki Ganor—Shimron's client—wanted the deal without having to bid.
This email is of significance because Shimron claimed he has never spoken with the prime minister, or indeed any state official, on the matter, which is why there is no basis for claims of conflict of interests.
In response, Shimron said, "I never told Ben-Ari anything about the prime minister. I also didn't know anything about the prime minister's request, which I only learned of now from the media. The only possible interpretation of this email, if the quote is true, is that Ben-Ari knew about the request of the prime minister, which I had no clue of. I had no idea about the involvement of the prime minister in the matter. Any other interpretation is not consistent with the truth."
Shimron further claimed, "I turned to the legal advisor of the Ministry of Defense as I am allowed to do under the conflict of interest orders, section 7 (c), which allows me to contact legal advisors in government ministries and in this case, it was merely a question."
ThyssonKrupp, the German shipyard in question, said that its contract with Miki Ganor, its official representative in Israel, "requires him to seek the company's approval for any subcontractor working on his behalf," which he did not do.
"The company did not approve Shimron's employment by Ganor, and if indeed Ganor hired him without approval, it is a breach of our contract with him. The issue is under investigation."
However, the company also refused to deny that Shimron was involved with them in the past, and only made clear their intentions regarding the prime minister's involvement in the deal. "We never instructed anyone to directly contact Netanyahu," said the company. "If information about an attempted bribing of Netanyahu comes to light, of course, that would require a thorough investigation."
Despite ThyssonKrupp's claims, however, leading German economic newspaper Handelsblatt reported that Shimron was present in at least one meeting Ganor had with representatives from the corporation.
The paper also reported that Ganor's commission in this deal could reach 30 million euro.
Ganor did not comment on the report, while Shimron said: "I never worked as Ganor's subcontractor on any project. I did indeed represent Ganor in his dealings with ThyssonKrupp as a legal advisor, and that too was only during part of their dealings. I had no contact with the prime minister on this matter. I met with Ganor and on his behalf with ThyssonKrupp as his legal advisor. Any other claim that makes it seem as if I represented ThyssonKrupp in its dealings with the State of Israel is baseless."
The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement Tuesday backing up Shimron. "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has known for many years that David Shimron is straight as a ruler, extremely careful and aware of laws and procedures. He is a top flight lawyer."
On Tuesday, Yedioth Ahronoth revealed that Shimron and Ganor met with Histadrut Labor Federation director Avi Nissenkorn and with the head of the IDF Workers Union Moshe Friedman to dissuade them from trying to foil a deal to outsource the maintenance work on the Israeli Navy's submarines to the German shipyard.
This contract would be particularly beneficial for Ganor, who mediated the deal, and would affect the workers at the Navy's shipyard.
"Ganor's account made it clear that it would be better for the German company and the IDF Workers Union to negotiate and reach an agreement rather than being dictated by a decision from the Defense Ministry," Friedman wrote in a letter to IDF Workers Union's members.
Itay Mashiach in Berlin, Tova Tzimuki and Amihai Atali contributed to this report.