JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel’s Justice Ministry announced criminal charges on Thursday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lawyer, a former top aide and an ex-navy chief over a $2 billion purchase of submarines from Germany.
Netanyahu was questioned by police but is not a suspect in the long-running investigation into suspicions that the local agent for the vessels’ builder, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems, part of the Thyssenkrupp group, paid bribes to Israeli officials.
Thyssenkrupp has said an internal probe found no evidence of corruption in its handling of the 2016 contract for the sale of three submarines to Israel, and Israeli prosecutors have taken no action against the conglomerate.
In a statement, the Justice Ministry said prosecutors accepted recommendations police made last year to indict Netanyahu’s attorney David Shimron, the prime minister’s ex-chief of staff David Sharan, Admiral Eliezer Marom and Israeli businessman Miki Ganor, who was Thyssenkrupp’s local agent.
Pending pre-trial hearings, Shimron will be charged with money laundering. Sharan, Marom and Ganor will face that charge as well as bribery, the ministry said.
All the suspects have denied any wrongdoing.
The submarine deal has been under public scrutiny since it emerged that Shimron, Netanyahu’s personal lawyer, also represented Ganor, raising concerns of a conflict of interest.
Fighting for his political life after two inconclusive elections, Netanyahu has been indicted in three corruption probes unrelated to the submarine investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing in those cases.
Reporting by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Hugh Lawson