Police Probe Reaches Higher Echelons in Submarine Case

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The investigation of corruption allegations in the purchase of German submarines for the Israeli navy reached into the higher echelons of the government on Monday, with media reports that Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz will be summoned to testify and that a senior aide in his office has come under suspicion.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit authorized the police national investigative unit to question Steinitz, according to Channel 2.

The minister’s advisor Rami Taib was brought in for questioning on suspicion of bribery on Monday and will be held in custody until Wednesday. Steinitz himself was reportedly not under suspicion of wrongdoing, but was called in due to his close association with Taib, and might be able to provide information that could assist the investigation.

A former minister, Eliezer Sandberg was also reportedly arrested on Monday in connection with the probe. Sandberg served briefly as minister of science and technology and minister of national infrastructure in 2003 and 2004. Currently, he is the World Chairman of Keren Hayesod and a partner in the H2 Technology venture capital fund.

Sandberg was a member of Knesset for 14 years beginning in 1992, representing the Tzomet and Shinui parties respectively, both now defunct.

The court ordered Sandberg to remain in police custody until Wednesday afternoon. He would not comment his role in the case.

Former deputy national security advisor Brig. Gen. (ret) Avriel Bar-Yosef was also questioned on Monday morning. Bar-Yosef was arrested on suspicion of bribery, money laundering, fraud, and breach of trust. Two months ago, he was questioned by police as part of the submarine affair and then put under house arrest.

These developments follow the arrest on Sunday of former chief of staff to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, David Sharan, several senior reserve IDF officers, and strategic adviser Nati Mor.

Rami Taib, who currently serves as Steinitz’s political adviser, was arrested on suspicion of bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a crime. He is also said to be closely associated with David Sharan, also accused of various acts of corruption.

Taib’s lawyer denied that his client was involved in any wrongdoing in the affair and asserted that he was “arrested at random after he went to visit his friend Sharan at the police station.”

Meanwhile, it was disclosed on Sunday night that former deputy head of the National Security Council Atalia Rosenbaum was questioned by police ten days ago in the case. She was subsequently released though her movements were restricted.

Rosenbaum is suspected of leaking information from NSC meetings to Miki Ganor, the local representative of German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp. After being identified as a key suspect in the case, Ganor turned state’s witness in July.

Recent developments in the investigation have apparently been accelerated by information furnished by state witness Miki Ganor, the representative for the German ThyssenKrupp company that builds submarines for the Israeli Navy, who was implicated in the case.

A high police official was quoted by Ynet on Monday as saying that Ganor provided investigators with tapes and text messages in addition to his oral testimony about himself and others. “He’s giving us excellent materials,” the official said.