A former Israeli energy minister once jailed for trying to smuggle 32,000 ecstasy tablets into the country is to be jailed again – after spying for Iran.
Gonen Segev, who served in Yitzhak Rabin’s cabinet in the 1990s, will spend 11 years behind bars for telling Iranian agents about sensitive Israeli sites and personnel, until Shin Bet agents learned he was “passing information to an enemy”.
The custodial sentence, which will be recommended to a judge next month, would have been much longer had Segev, 69, not agreed to a plea bargain, leading prosecutors to drop the more serious charge of treason.
A trained doctor, Segev was arrested in 2004 after he was caught trying to smuggle drugs into Israel using expired diplomatic papers. He was released in 2007 and moved to Africa, where his latest dealings later became known.
Israeli spies learned that he had been meeting Iranian agents in hotels around the world since 2012, providing “information related to the energy sector, security sites in Israel and officials in political and security institutions”.
He was arrested in Equatorial Guinea last year and deported to Israel, where he reportedly told investigators that he had aimed “to fool the Iranians to come back to Israel a hero”.
Iran and Israel are bitter enemies, whose agents and proxies regularly conduct lethal operations against each other, but Segev’s lawyers this week insisted that “his motive was not to aid an enemy during war”. He will appear before a judge on 11 February.