Israeli Submarine Scandal: Army Officers to Be Questioned as Investigation Expands

Investigators expanding investigation as former Defense Ministry official questioned and signing ceremony postponed

Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad in 2013.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Israel Police are preparing to broaden their investigation of the submarine affair by summoning for questioning officers now serving in the navy.

Michael Ganor, the Israeli representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp, who is suspected of bribery and money-laundering, gave the police additional information connected with other arms deals signed in recent years. To explore the new information, the probe will have to expand the pool of suspects and witnesses it has reached so far. Currently serving naval officers, or those who have recently retired from active duty, are to be called for questioning, and some apparently will be investigated.

>> How Netanyahu went behind defense officials' backs in Israel’s submarine deals | Analysis <<

Preparations are reportedly underway by the military advocate general, Brig. Gen. Sharon Afek, to expand the investigation, although Afek so far has not officially been informed that there are officers to be summoned. The police can investigate the matter independently, but in most cases where officers are to be questioned, especially senior officers, the military advocate general, as well as the Military Police, are also informed. A number of officers have already reportedly met with attorneys ahead of possible questioning.

On Tuesday, police questioned the former head of security in the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, who served at his post for 13 years and only recently retired, at the Lahav 433 investigations headquarters in Lod. He played a major role in all procurement deals and in formulating an opinion on the impact of the deals on the region. Apparently Gilad’s testimony focused on the approval of the sale of the submarines from ThyssenKrupp to Egypt. It has been reported that Gilad, along with former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, opposed the sale of the more advanced version of the sub to the Egyptian navy. A security source said that when Gilad heard about the approval of the sale to Egypt during a visit to Germany, “his jaw dropped.”

An official in the National Security Council said Tuesday that the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the sale had been postponed indefinitely. The postponement was based on a clause in the memorandum that if corruption was discovered in the deal, it would be cancelled. ThyssenKrupp declined Tuesday to discuss this aspect and would only say that these were agreements between the governments of Israel and Germany.

The purchase, which was to have replaced three older submarines with new ones, was to have been implemented only in another 10 years, and so on the face of things a postponement by a number of weeks has no real security implications. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates, including one of the suspects in the affair, Avriel Bar-Yosef, said it was important to sign the agreement during the government’s term. Ya’alon had reportedly wondered why the deal was being brought forward although it would only be implemented much later.

Israel reportedly wanted to assure the conditions of the memorandum of understanding before the German general elections, slated for September. In fact, the conditions of the deal for the submarines had already been closed and signed, including the level of financing by Germany – about a third of the cost of the subs. The signing ceremony, which was to have taken place next week, was to be an official seal of the deal after both Israel’s National Security Council and Germany’s Federal Security Council had approved the terms.

Howeer, the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the German sale of three submarines to Israel has been postponed, a National Security Council official said on Tuesday morning. The official’s announcement came following a report in Yedioth Ahronoth that Germany postponed the signing of the memorandum indefinitely in light of Israel’s investigation into possible corruption in the deal.

Meanwhile, Thyssenkrupp said in a statement on Tuesday that it has not found any evidence of corruption in its handling of a $2 billion contract to sell submarines and naval patrol craft to Israel.

“Based on the investigative measures we were able to carry out, we found no concrete indications of corruption – neither with regard to submarine projects, nor in connection with the procurement of corvettes,” it said. “However, these investigation results are explicitly provisional.”