Israel's Submarine Scandal: 'Suspicions Grow Stronger' as Netanyahu Lawyer Remains in Custody

Judge says ‘the suspicions are growing stronger’ against former National Security Council deputy head and German shipbuilder's representative

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Avriel Bar Yosef (top), David Shimron (center) and Michael Ganor (bottom).
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Avriel Bar Yosef (top), David Shimron (center) and Michael Ganor (bottom).

The Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court extended the detention on Thursday morning of two of the main suspects in the scandal over the purchase of three new submarines for the Israeli navy.

The two: Michael Ganor, the Israeli representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, which is to build the subs and missile corvettes to protect offshore natural gas drilling platforms; and Avriel Bar-Yosef, the former navy admiral and deputy national security advisor, were ordered held for another five days of questioning.

Ganor is suspected of money-laundering, bribery, conspiracy and fraud; while Bar-Yosef, who played a key role in the approval process for the sub deal and helped prepare the government’s official opinion approving the purchase, is suspected of bribery, conspiracy, breach of trust and money-laundering.

During the court hearing on extending their remand, Ganor’s lawyer claimed his client was innocent of all charges. In response, Judge Einat Ron said: “In the first decision on the detention I noted that the material collected by the police contains a reasonable suspicion [of a crime]. This suspicion has now grown stronger with the developments in the investigation,” she said.

Michael Ganor, a key suspect in Israel's 'submarine affair,' in court after his arrest this week.
Ilan Assayag

The police said the evidence has strengthened its suspicions against Ganor, and the police presented the court with a 48-page confidential report about Ganor’s involvement.

Ron rejected the claims by the attorneys for the two, in which they fought the extension of their detention, saying the great amount of publicity the case has received in the press means it would make it impossible for them to obstruct the investigation – and therefore they should be released to house arrest. The judge said given the nature of the investigation and the suspicions, any possible obstruction of justice must be prevented and house arrest is not an acceptable alternative.

“Happily, most of the large amount material gathered by the police has not been published by the press, but is still in at this stage found where it should properly be, in the police files only,” said the judge. It can be concluded that the investigative authorities have a great deal of material that has not yet been released, but the police still have a lot of work left to do, she added.

Avriel Bar-Yosef, former deputy National Security Adviser, in court after his arrest this week.
Ilan Assayag

The court also extended the house arrest of David Shimron, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, on Wednesday. Shimron was questioned by police for the third time on Wednesday. Shimron is also Ganor’s attorney, but the police have not yet publicly said of what he is suspected.

Ronen Shemer, a lawyer who works with Ganor, is also being held in custody. He is suspected of destroying evidence by shredding documents related to the case, as well other possible crimes.   

On Wednesday, the police’s national fraud squad was also detained and questioned the former head of the Israeli navy, Vice Admiral (res.) Eliezer Marom, over his role in the affair. He is suspected of accepting bribes. Marom confirmed that he was the one who recommended Ganor, a former navy officer, for the job of brokering the sub deal as ThyssenKrupp’s representative; but Marom said he did so because he believed Ganor was the best person for the job, said sources involved in the investigation.

Marom did not deny he holds overseas bank accounts in Cyprus, but said he never received any money for backing Ganor. During questioning, Marom said the money in the accounts came from various business deals he was involved in since he retired from the military in 2011.