Former Israeli minister charged with spying for Iran: Shin Bet

Israel's former energy minister Gonen Segev was charged with "offences of passing information to the enemy in time of war and espionage against the state of Israel". PHOTO: REUTERS

JERUSALEM (AFP) - A former Israeli government minister who once admitted to trying to smuggle ecstasy tablets has been charged with spying for Iran, Israeli security officials said on Monday (june 18).

The Shin Bet domestic security agency said former energy minister Gonen Segev was charged on Friday with "offences of passing information to the enemy in time of war and espionage against the state of Israel."

"An investigation by the Shin Bet and the police found that Segev was recruited and acted as an agent on behalf of Iranian intelligence," it said in a statement.

A police statement said he was arrested last month on his return to Israel after being refused entry to the West African state of Equatorial Guinea because of his criminal record.

He had previously been living in Nigeria, the police said.

The Shin Bet said Segev had been in contact with Iranian embassy officials in Nigeria and later he visited the Islamic republic for meetings with his intelligence "handlers".

"Segev gave his handlers information related to the energy market, security sites in Israel, buildings and officials in political and security bodies, and more," it wrote.

A statement from Segev's lawyers said most details of the charges were under a state-imposed blackout and the little which had been released gave a misleading impression.

The facts which have been cleared for publication "give the appearance of acts of the gravest kind," it said.

"However from the contents of the charge sheet, whose full details are blocked, a different picture emerges," it said.

Segev served in the Labor government of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in the early 1990s.

In 2004 he was charged with trying to smuggle 30,000 ecstasy pills into Israel from the Netherlands, using a diplomatic passport with a falsified expiry date.

The following year he admitted the charges as part of a plea bargain agreement.

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