Israeli defence minister's cleaner 'spied for Iran' and had criminal record

Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet launches inquiry into the vetting failure

A house cleaner working for Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz – who asked Iranian agents for just $7,000 to spy on the minister – had been working for him for years, according to an indictment released by a court in Lod, near Jerusalem.

Omri Goren, who was last week charged with espionage, began work as a handyman and cleaner for Mr Gantz and his neighbours in 2018, when Mr Gantz was chief of staff of the Israeli Army. He faces at least 10 years in prison.

According to Israeli internal security service Shin Bet, Goren had not been properly vetted when Mr Gantz became minister and submitted a list of personal contacts for routine security assessment.

Mr Goren, whose defence attorney said that he had acted out of “economic distress”, managed to take photographs of Mr Gantz's home computer, router and IP address, sending them to Iranian hackers over the Telegram messaging service.

In Mr Goren's defence, attorney Gal Wolf said that his confession to security services showed that he was an amateur seeking money, rather than a professional spy.

"Following investigation by security officials, they understood that the cleaner's version of events is correct and that he had no intention to damage national security and did not damage national security,” Mr Wolf said.

Mr Wolf said that his client, while sending images of Mr Gantz’s communication devices, was not able to access classified information.

This will be of little comfort to security agencies who are now investigating the vetting oversight.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 News, Mr Goren had a long string of criminal offences prior to his employment as a cleaner, including burglary.

“In light of the incident, there will be a re-evaluation of the security vetting processes for positions around protected officials,” Shin Bet said. “Lessons have already been learnt.

“It should be emphasised that given the measures and procedures used to secure information at the minister's home, Goren was never exposed to classified materials and no such material was transferred to the agents with whom he was in contact," Shin Bet said.

Updated: November 21st 2021, 2:20 PM