Email Purportedly Shows Netanyahu’s Lawyer Intervened in German Submarines Deal
An email uncovered Tuesday by Israel’s Channel 10 News reveals new information against Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the ongoing German submarine scandal. According to the report, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s personal lawyer David Shimron made a phone call to the Defense Ministry’s legal adviser asking for a status report about the Ministry’s tender regarding a deal with the German shipyard which he represents.
Israel has been reeling the last few days over allegations of graft in the Prime Minister’s Office in relation to the acquisition of new German submarines for the Israeli Navy.
According to journalist Raviv Druker, an e mail dated July 22, 2014 was written by legal adviser to the Defense Ministry, Ahaz Ben-Ari, and addressed to the Ministry’s Director General, Dan Harel. It informed Harel that Shimron had contacted him and said that he was acting for the benefit of the German shipyard, ThyssenKrupp, as per Netanyahu’s request.
The email reportedly stated: “Attorney David Shimron, who represents the German firm, called me and wanted to know if we are halting the bidding process in order to negotiate with his client, as was requested of us by the prime minister.”
The bid Shimron references in the email, Channel 10 reported, was an international bid issued by the Ministry of Defense for the acquisition of the boats to protect Israel’s natural gas fields.
The German company ThyssonKrupp was, at that time, represented by another Israeli Miki Ganor who is Shimron’s client, and it obviously wanted the deal without having to bid for it.
Two months later Israel held a conference for companies from Italy, Spain, South Korea and Israel which wanted to make bids in the tender.
But only one month later the Defense Ministry stated in an announcement that it was freezing the tender because the German government had approached the Israeli government with an offer to subsidize the ships if they were bought from a German shipyard, according to reports by Channel 10 and Haaretz.
A source involved in the matter told Haaretz that then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon of Binyamin Netanyahu’s governing Likud Party opposed halting the tender. According to the Haaretz source, the Germans offered the subsidy after being shown the bids of the other companies that competed in the tender.
When the submarines affair was exposed, Shimron claimed he never spoke with the Prime Minister, or indeed any state official on the matter, which is why there is no basis for claims of a conflict of interest.
Haaretz has learned that Shimron, Netanyahu’s confidant and attorney, was appointed to the board of a firm advising the German company ThyssenKrupp, which already sold six submarines to Israel and hopes to sell even more, despite the IDF’s insistence that they were an unnecessary purchase.
In response Shimron told Channel 10: “I never told Ben-Ari anything about the Prime Minister. I also didn’t know anything about the Prime Minister’s request, which I only learned of now from the media. The only possible interpretation of this e mail, if the quote is true, is that Ben-Ari knew about the request of the Prime Minister, which I had no clue of. I had no idea about the involvement of the Prime Minister in the matter. Any other interpretation is not consistent with the truth.”
Further more Shimron claimed, “I turned to the legal adviser of the Ministry of Defense as I am allowed to do under the conflict of interest orders, section 7 (c), which allows me to contact legal advisers in government ministries and in this case, it was merely a question.”
ThyssonKrupp, the German shipyard, said that Miki Ganor is its official representative in Israel and his contract “requires him to seek the company’s approval for any subcontractor working on his behalf, ” which he did not do.
The company added that it “did not approve Shimron’s employment by Ganor, and if indeed Ganor hired him without approval, it is a breach of our contract with him. The issue is under investigation.”
The German shipyard refused to deny that Shimron was involved with them in the past, and only made clear their intentions regarding the prime minister’s involvement in the deal. “We never instructed anyone to directly contact Netanyahu, ” the company claim. “If information about an attempted bribing of Netanyahu comes to light, of course, that would require a thorough investigation.”
Channel 10 added to this report that German newspaper Handelsblatt said that David Shimron was present in at least one meeting Ganor had with representatives from the corporation.
The paper also reported that Ganor’s commission in this deal could reach 30 million Euros ($32 million).
While Avi Ganor refuses to comment on the report, Shimron said: “I never worked as Ganor’s subcontractor on any project. I did indeed represent Ganor in his dealings with ThyssonKrupp as a legal advisor, and that too was only during part of their dealings. I had no contact with the prime minister on this matter. I met with Ganor and on his behalf with ThyssonKrupp as his legal advisor. Any other claim that makes it seem as if I represented ThyssonKrupp in its dealings with the State of Israel is baseless.”
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement Tuesday backing up Shimron. “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has known for many years that David Shimron is straight as a ruler, extremely careful and aware of laws and procedures. He is a top flight lawyer.”
Haaretz also report that Israeli Attorney General Orders Police to Open Inquiry Into Submarine Affair Amid New Developments.
Order comes after investigation of top security official on bribery suspicions leads to new information. Israel is also considering conducting additional investigations abroad.