Member of Israeli Corruption Inquiry Panel Has Business Meetings With Suspect

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A protester holds a sign shaped like a submarine with the words 'investigation now,' in Jerusalem, October 2020.
A protester holds a sign shaped like a submarine with the words 'investigation now,' in Jerusalem, October 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Avraham Ben-Shoshan, the former Israeli naval commander named to the commission investigating the government's procurement of submarines and warships, held a number of business meetings in the past with Michael Ganor – who turned state’s evidence in the affair but who prosecutors say they now intend to indict for bribery, subject to a hearing.

The meetings with Ben-Shoshan took place while Ganor was brokering deals with the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp in his role as the company's representative in Israel. The commission formed by Defense Minister Benny Gantz is examining alleged misconduct in the purchase of naval vessels from the company.

Ben-Shoshan was the commander of the navy in the 1980s and retired from the military in 1989. Since then, he has been involved in a number of business initiatives. In the early 2000s, he met with Ganor a few times in his office in the Museum Tower in Tel Aviv and asked him to help out in business matters. Ganor spoke to the police about the meetings a few years ago.

This week, Gantz appointed Ben-Shoshan to the inquiry commission, chaired by retired judge Amnon Straschnov, to look into the issues surrounding so-called submarine affair. On Wednesday, Haaretz asked Gantz’s office whether the relationship between Ganor and Ben-Shoshan should disqualify Ben-Shoshan from serving on the commission.

However, Ben-Shoshan told the office he had not met with Ganor in 30 years.

Gantz’s office said Ben-Shoshan had stated that he did not remember any meetings with Ganor, and they certainly did not have any business relationship.

Defense Ministry officials said that the examinations they conducted did not find any business dealings or other evidence of a conflict of interest related to Ben-Shoshan and his connections to Ganor. The ministry said the commission of inquiry will not deal with the any criminal aspects, but only the procurement process and the work between the various defense and political bodies involved.

On Wednesday, Channel 20 reported that another member of the commission, Yael Grill, had worked in the Defense Ministry’s procurement administration from 2012 to 2014, the period when the ship deals were made.

The submarine and warship affair centers around claims that Netanyahu intervened to buy additional naval vessels from Germany, against security officials' position. Senior IDF officers, public officials and a number of people close to Netanyahu are suspected of demanding and receiving bribes to advance the deals with ThyssenKrupp to purchase submarines and missile corvettes, worth 1.5 billion euros and 430 million euros, respectively.

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