A former cleaner who worked at the private residence of Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has been jailed for three years for attempting to spy for Iranian hackers.
Omri Goren, 38, was found guilty of trying to give information to an enemy entity.
He was arrested in November 2021 and was accused of contacting hackers belonging to a group called Black Shadow, which is reportedly linked to Iran, on the messaging app Telegram and offering to give them information about Gantz for a fee.
He also reportedly offered to bug Gantz’s computer for USD 7,000.
After agreeing on a plea deal, the more serious charges of espionage were dropped. His lawyers, named as Gal Wolf and Anat Yaari, said: “[Goren] is not a spy and this isn’t a spying scandal.”
They added: “This is about a man who found himself entangled in debt and identified a security breach.”
This was also reportedly corroborated by the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, which said that Goren had not had access to any sensitive data while working at the defence minister’s home as a cleaner.
But Goren’s arrest was reportedly embarrassing to the Shin Bet, who were responsible for vetting him. After he was arrested, it was revealed that Goren had an extensive criminal record, with multiple convictions and prison sentences, including for two bank robberies.
The Shin Bet, as a result, launched an internal probe to determine how it was possible that Goren, who began working for Gantz years ago before he went into politics, could have been kept on after the latter became Israel’s Defence Minister. The agency eventually acknowledged “procedural failures in the way that Omri Goren’s security check was conducted”.
Goren reportedly admitted to most of the allegations against him after his latest arrest in November, but denied throughout the trial that he knowingly offered to help the Iranian hackers.
Goren reportedly said that it was not clear if they were Iranian, only that they were “hackers on Telegram”. He also reportedly said: “If they would have waited a few days before arresting me they’d see that I’m not a spy. I wanted to trick the Iranians and take their money without sending them any photo or documents.”