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Netanyahu confidant Yitzhak Molcho named in submarine graft probe

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's longtime confidant Yitzhak Molcho, seen here in Januiary 2007, has been identified as one of two men questioned in a probe into suspected corruption around the purchase of German submarines
NIR KEIDAR (AFP/File)
Police suspect that Molcho tried to push the deal during his diplomatic trips abroad

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's diplomatic envoy Yitzchak Molcho was named Tuesday as one of two men questioned this week as part of an ongoing corruption probe into the purchase of three submarines from German shipbuilding conglomerate ThyssenKrupp.

Molcho and his legal partner David Shimron, who is also Netanyahu's cousin and personal attorney, were detained on Sunday and questioned for two days.

Authorities released their identities on Tuesday.

Police refused to divulge why Molcho was questioned, saying merely it was part of the submarine affair, but media said he was suspected of having used his position to advance the deal.

Media reports said that investigators suspect that state officials were paid bribes to influence a decision to purchase three Dolphin submarines from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition from the Israeli defense ministry.

AP images/AMIR COHEN

Police suspect that Molcho tried to push the deal during his diplomatic trips abroad, while Shimron, who represented ThyssenKrupp in Israel, sought to use his position to advance the firm's interests.

Shimron has already been detained for questioning over the affair.

Molcho is being investigated for breach of trust as a public servant since his diplomatic trips abroad were conducted on behalf of the Prime Minister.

While his position had no formal title, Molcho led peace negotiating teams with the Palestinians and served as the Israeli premier's pointman for resolving sensitive issues with Egypt and Jordan.

Molcho announced last month that he would step down from his position as Netanyahu's envoy in February next year.

Roland Weihrauch (DPA/AFP/File)

Germany and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding last month green-lighting the submarine purchases, with a caveat that the deal will be scrapped should corruption charges be proven at the end of the investigation.

Israeli media has reported that it is likely that Netanyahu himself will be questioned during the investigation, although he is not considered a suspect.

He is however being investigated in two separate graft probes and is expected to be interrogated again in the coming days.

The two other probes involving Netanyahu center on the premier allegedly receiving luxury gifts from wealthy supporters and suspicions he sought a secret deal for favorable coverage with the publisher of top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot.

(Staff with AFP)

See also:

Former Israeli defense minister slams Netanyahu over submarine scandal

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