Former minister Gonen Segev was charged last week with spying for Iran, giving Israel’s arch-foe sensitive information about locations of security centers and the country’s energy industry, the Shin Bet security service said Monday.
He was allegedly an active agent at the time of his arrest, and had twice been to Iran to meet his handlers.
Segev, a disgraced politician who served time in jail for drug smuggling, was extradited to Israel from Equatorial Guinea and charged with spying for Iran last month.
According to the Shin Bet, Segev, whose former ministerial responsibilities included energy and infrastructure, has knowingly been in contact with Iranian intelligence officials since 2012, making first contact with them at Iran’s embassy in Nigeria.
“Segev gave his operators information about [Israel’s] energy sector, about security locations in Israel, and about buildings and officials in diplomatic and security bodies, and more,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
“Segev even visited Iran twice to meet with his handlers in full knowledge that they were Iranian intelligence operatives,” the security service said.
The Shin Bet said Segev met with his Iranian handlers in hotels and safe houses around the world and used a special encrypted device to send them messages in secret.
He was accused of making contact with Israeli figures in security, defense and diplomacy in order to mine them for information to send to Iran.
According to the Shin Bet, he also tried to make direct connections between his Israeli contacts and Iranian handlers, presenting the spies as businesspeople.
In mid-May, Segev traveled from Nigeria to Equatorial Guinea where he was arrested by local police and sent back to Israel, the intelligence agency said.
On Friday, he was indicted in a Jerusalem court on charges of assisting the enemy in wartime, spying, and a number of other related crimes, but the case remained under a gag order until Monday. Some details of the case remain sealed.
Segev’s lawyers said in a statement to the press that the full charge sheet painted a “different picture” from that which can be seen from only the parts cleared for publication. According to an unconfirmed Hadashot TV report Monday, his defense claim is that he was seeking to mislead the Iranians and hoped to return home to Israel a hero.
Segev is reportedly being held in a Shin Bet facility, where he is being kept in solitary confinement. His next Jerusalem court hearing is set for three weeks’ time.
As somebody who sat in government meetings and headed ministries dealing with energy and national infrastructure, Segev would have had access to sensitive material during his time as a politician. Given that material relating to the case was not released in full, it was not clear what damage he may have caused to Israeli security.
The former politician had been living abroad since his release from prison after he was found guilty of drug smuggling in 2006.
Hadashot TV reported that he initiated the contact with Iran, “knocking on the door” of the Iranian embassy in Nigeria “to offer his services.”
Segev was born in Israel in 1956. He was a captain in the IDF and went on to study medicine at Ben Gurion University in the Negev and became a pediatrician.
He was elected to the Knesset in 1992, at the age of 35, as part of Raful Eitan’s now defunct Tzomet party.
He famously split that party in 1994 and set up the short-lived Yiud faction along with two other Tzomet MKs.
He joined Yitzhak Rabin’s governing coalition in January 1995 and was rewarded with ministerial office: He headed the Energy and Infrastructure Ministry (now known as the Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources) until June 1996. His vote was critical in passing the Oslo II Accord in the Knesset in October 1995. He quit politics after losing his seat in the 1996 elections.
Segev then became a businessman, and was arrested in 2004 for attempting to smuggle 32,000 ecstasy (MDMA) tablets from the Netherlands into Israel. He also illegally extended his diplomatic license and committed several offenses involving use of credit cards.
The former minister was convicted in 2005 of drug smuggling, forgery and fraud. He received a five-year prison sentence as well as a $27,500 fine. He was released from prison in 2007 after a third of his sentence was cut due to satisfactory behavior in jail.
However, Segev could not go back to working as a doctor since his medical license was stripped from him shortly before his release. Segev appealed this decision to the Jerusalem District Court, but was rejected.
Immediately following his release, Segev left the country and has since been working as a doctor and a businessman in Nigeria. Hadashot TV said he had worked as a doctor for staffers at the Israeli embassy in Nigeria and for the local Jewish community.
In 2016, the Israeli Health Ministry rejected a request from Segev to reinstate his medical license in order for him to return to the country.
His attorney argued at the time that there were ministers who had committed offenses and still returned to government positions. He cited the example of current Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who was previously jailed for bribery and yet returned to the very same ministerial position he held when he committed his crime.