Yitzhak Molcho, Netanyahu's chief negotiator and personal envoy for over a decade, was named November 7 as a suspect in the investigation into alleged corruption in Israel's purchase of submarines from German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp.
Molcho, along with legal partner David Shimron (Netanyahu's cousin and personal attorney), was detained by Israeli police for questioning November 5, and has since faced two unrelenting days of interrogation. Shimron, who has previously been questioned under caution in the investigation, dubbed Case 3000, was publicly identified upon his detention — Molcho's name remained under gag order until Tuesday.
Investigators suspect state officials were paid bribes to influence the decision to buy submarines and patrol boats from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the defense ministry.
Police suspect Molcho tried to push the submarine deal during his diplomatic trips abroad, conducted on behalf of Netanyahu, while Shimron sought to promote the interests of the German shipbuilders within Israel — as a result, Molcho faces potential charges of breach of trust as a public servant.
Shimron has already been questioned several times as part of the investigation by police anti-corruption unit Lahav 433. He served as a lawyer for Miki Ganor, ThyssenKrupp's local representative, who turned state's witness in July and is considered a key suspect in the case.
Major development in Netanyahu corruption probes: Yitzhak Molcho — his confidant & special diplo envoy — questioned by police last 2 days.— Neri Zilber (@NeriZilber) November 7, 2017
Molcho is also believed to have been implicated by Ganor, who testified to Shimron had touted his partner's ability to push ThyssenKrupp's interests in winning the tender.
The investigation of Molcho as a criminal suspect comes a mere fortnight after he resigned as Netanyahu's chief negotiator, a position he held since 2006. Most notably, he served as an envoy during the failed 2013-2014 Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In a statement, he said he was stepping down as he felt he'd fulfilled his obligations.
However, the announcement came a day before the state was set to provide a response to a High Court of Justice petition calling on Molcho to suspend himself over the conflict of interest charges. His confidants said he'd simply tired over the years, and his weariness was exacerbated by incessant personal attacks, despite his work being on a volunteer basis.
The petition argued Molcho, even if he wasn't a suspect in the case, couldn't continue as an envoy on international affairs given that his legal partner was profiting from deals made by the Israeli government.
Netanyahu is expected to provide testimony in the case before November 10. He has not yet been named as a suspect in Case 3000, but is to be questioned by police in two other corruption investigations in which he is a suspect, known as Cases 1000 and 2000.
In the first instance, Netanyahu his wife Sara are suspected of receiving illicit gifts from billionaire benefactors, most notably hundreds of thousands of shekels' worth of cigars and champagne from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan.
In the second, Netanyahu and Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper publisher Arnon Mozes have been accused of entering an illicit quid-pro-quo deal that would have seen the Prime Minister weaken a rival daily, Israel Hayom, in return for more favorable coverage from Yedioth.
Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing in both cases, although has been questioned four times since the allegations surfaced in December 2016.