Criminal Investigation Announced Into 'Submarine Affair'; Netanyahu Not a Suspect

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan says reasonable suspicion that public bribery offenses were committed in purchase of three subs from German company.

A new submarine built for the Israeli navy at the site of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in Kiel, northern Germany, in 2013.
A new submarine built for the Israeli navy at the site of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in Kiel, northern Germany, in 2013. CARSTEN REHDER / AFP

 An inquiry into Israel's purchase of three submarines from a German company will now be a criminal investigation, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan announced Monday, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not a suspect.

The main suspicion is that David Shimron – Netanyahu’s cousin and personal lawyer – represented Michael Ganor, a representative of ThyssenKrupp. The German company recently signed a memorandum of understanding to build three submarines for the Israeli navy.

“The decision was made based on information collected by the police during the inquiry in recent months, and in light of evidence raising a reasonable suspicion against some of those involved in the affair of committing public bribery offenses,” Nitzan's office stated.

Nitzan based his decision in part on the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.

Netanyahu had initially pushed for the navy to add three new submarines to its fleet, and Israel negotiated with ThyssenKrupp in 2015. Additionally, the prime minister sought to acquire two anti-submarine boats. Then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and the defense establishment opposed expanding the fleet to nine, as well as the anti-submarine boat acquisition, and the matter was dropped. Last October, the cabinet approved the replacement of three old submarines with the new ones.

Senior Defense Ministry officials provided testimony in recent months, including Ya’alon, former director general Dan Harel, the former head of the acquisition administration, Shmuel Zucker, and the defense establishment’s legal adviser, Ahaz Ben-Ari, who is due to leave his position soon.

Lawyer David Shimron. Netanyahu's cousin and lawyer.
Moti Milrod

The attorney general ordered a police inquiry into the affair last November, in light of “new information received from the police, as well as additional developments on the matter.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said that ”the first time the prime minister was informed of the involvement of attorney Shimron in the affair was when he was asked to give a response.” It added, “Lawyer Shimron never discussed the acquisition of submarines with the prime minister.”