State’s Witness Questioned Again in Submarine Case After Recanting, Says Police Pressured Him

Michael Ganor, who served as German shipbuilder Thyssenkrupp's representative in Israel and is suspected of obstruction of justice, says police threatened to arrest his family

Ganor evacuated to the hospital, Lod, Israel, March 19, 2019.
מוטי מילרוד

Michael Ganor, who on Tuesday recanted testimony that he had given after turning state’s evidence in the investigation of suspected corruption in Israel’s purchase of submarines and naval boats from Germany, was questioned again on Wednesday, and police sources say he failed to offer a clear explanation for his reversal.

After Ganor claimed he had never bribed anyone involved in the case, investigators confronted him with statements in previous interrogations, as well as recordings and other evidence he had previously given to police. No other people involved in the case have been questioned.

Michael Ganor in 2017.
Tomer Appelbaum

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Ganor has told confidantes that he had agreed to become a state's witness because of police pressure. "I agreed to sign a state's witness agreement only because the police threatened to arrest my wife and daughters – I couldn't take the pressure," he said. "The police set the narrative in the case. Every time before confrontations with chief suspects, investigators took him to a room that was not recorded by cameras and instructed me exactly what to say and how to act. This is the truth – I don't want to lie and say that this was bribery."

Also Wednesday, Ganor had his remand extended for an additional five days.

Ganor was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of bribery and obstructing an investigation with false information after asking to withdraw his earlier account of events.

On Wednesday, one of Ganor’s lawyers, Boaz Ben-Zur, said that despite the latest developments, the prosecution had not told Ganor that the state’s evidence agreement had been terminated. The police and prosecutors have been in consultations over possibly doing so, however.

Ganor is a former senior Israeli navy official who was German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp’s representative in Israel. The case in which he has been implicated, dubbed Case 3000, involves alleged corruption over Israel’s purchase of submarines and missile boats for the Israel Navy. In recent months, he has expressed dissatisfaction over the state’s evidence agreement in his case, calling it draconian and divorced from reality.

Clockwise from top left: David Sharan, David Shimron, Eliezer Marom, Modi Zandberg, Avriel Bar-Yosef and Shay Brosh.
Moti Milrod, Alon Ron, David Bachar, Moti Kimche, Ilan Assayag

At Wednesday’s hearing in Rishon Letzion Magistrate’s Court, another lawyer representing Ganor, Meir Erenfeld, said: “Ganor stands behind all of the facts that he provided, but he has reservations regarding the interpretation of those same facts." Under questioning on Tuesday, Ganor told police he was not interested in improving upon the terms of the state’s evidence agreement.

When police learned of the latest developments, they took Ganor into custody and questioned him under caution, meaning as a suspect rather than a witness. He told police that he had retracted his earlier testimony because he wished to recount events as they actually occurred.

Police sources expressed the belief that Ganor was in fact seeking to improve the initial terms of his state’s evidence agreement, which was signed in 2017. It provides that in return for his testimony, he would serve a year in prison and pay a 10 million shekel ($2.8 million) fine.

“I didn’t bribe anyone,” Ganor told police investigators this week. “All of the payments that I made to those involved in the case were for professional services that they provided to me.” Ganor did not deny paying the individuals hundreds of thousands of shekels, however.

In November, the police announced that it found sufficient evidence to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer, David Shimron, with facilitating bribery in the affair. Shimron, who is also Netanyahu’s cousin, began representing Ganor in 2009. Police say Ganor used the family connection to Netanyahu to advance ThyssenKrupp’s interests in what became a deal worth nearly $2 billion for the company.

Police also recommended charging Netanyahu’s former bureau chief, David Sharan, former navy chief Eliezer Marom and two other ex-navy commanders on similar bribery counts in the case. Ganor served in the navy with Brig. Gen. (res.) Avriel Bar-Yosef, who police also recommended to charge.

In the aftermath of Ganor’s request to withdraw his testimony, senior police officials have stressed that they have firm evidence against all those involved, including other testimony supporting Ganor’s initial account. His retraction doesn’t change where the case stands, they said. Furthermore, prosecution sources said its agreement with Ganor specifies that the state would be able to use his testimony and other material provided by him even if he recants it.

The latest development could make it more difficult for prosecutors to prove their case against the other suspects, however, because Ganor’s earlier statements that the funds that he had transferred were bribes are considered central to the case.

Earlier this month, Channel 13 News reported that Netanyahu had been a business partner of another cousin, Nathan Milikowsky until 2010, and that they had owned shares in a company, GrafTech International, that was a supplier to Thyssenkrupp, the German shipbuilder at the center of Case 3000.

Sources from the police and in the prosecutor’s office as well as sources close to Ganor himself have said his desire to withdraw his testimony was not in any way related to Channel 13’s disclosures.