Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he was unaware of any corruption linked to a deal to buy German submarines, after police recommended charging his lawyer in the investigation.
“As you know, there are no claims as to my involvement,” Netanyahu said late Saturday in his first comments on the issue since police issued their findings in the long-running investigation last week.
“Which is not a minute thing since people don’t hesitate to blame me with the most absurd claims.”
Asked about the alleged offences committed by his relative and family lawyer David Shimron, Netanyahu said: “You know I didn’t know.”
“Secondly, I suggest to wait until the end of the procedures and not rush to make a judgement,” he said before boarding a plane for Paris, where he will join world leaders in marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Police said Thursday there was evidence to charge Shimron and others with bribery in connection with negotiations for Israel’s purchase of submarines and other vessels from German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp.
The investigation into the deals reportedly worth $2 billion is one of several cases that have put Netanyahu’s long tenure in office under the spotlight.
Besides Shimron, police said the former chief of Netanyahu’s office, David Sharan, is also suspected of bribery, as is the former head of the navy, Eliezer Marom.
Two other navy ex-generals were named as being suspected of similar offences, as was a former minister, Eliezer Zandberg.
Netanyahu was questioned as a witness and not a suspect in the case.
The police’s findings will now be handed over to the attorney general, who will decide whether the suspects should be charged.
Israeli opposition politicians have questioned how Netanyahu could be unaware of the alleged corruption and called for a commission of inquiry.
In February, police recommended Netanyahu be indicted in two other graft probes, though the attorney general has yet to decide whether to do so.
Allegations against Netanyahu include seeking a secret deal with the publisher of Israel’s top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot to ensure positive coverage in return for pushing forward a law that would have limited the circulation of a rival.
Another case involves suspicions that the prime minister and his family received luxury gifts from wealthy individuals in exchange for financial or personal favours.
Netanyahu denies all the allegations, calling them a bid by his political enemies to force him from office.
[source_without_link] Agence France-Presse[/source_without_link]