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Israeli defence minister’s household staffer accused of spying for Iran

Gorochovsky was arrested for allegedly offering to spy for the Black Shadow hackers. Source: Israel Hayon.

JERUSALEM: Israel has charged a member of Defence Minister Benny Gantz’s housekeeping staff with espionage, saying he offered to spy on him on behalf of “a person identified with Iran”, the country’s arch-enemy.

In a statement, the Shin Bet security service said the suspect corresponded with the unnamed person over social media. It said he provided photographs taken in the house as proof he had access and proposed installing malware on Gantz’s computer. It added that Gorochovsky never gained access to “classified materials”.

Omri Goren Gorochovsky, a 37-year-old resident of the central city of Lod, was arrested on November 4, for allegedly offering to spy for the Black Shadow hackers, a group allegedly linked to Iran.

An arrest warrant for Gorochovsky said he had an extensive criminal history, including five convictions and prison time served for various offences including bank robbery, raising questions as to how he was hired to work in the home of one of Israel’s top security officials.

The Israeli domestic intelligence agency said Gorochovsky initiated contact with an unnamed “Iranian entity” through social media, sending photos of different items from Gantz’s house including pictures of his computer. 

The Shin Bet said the suspect, who performed housekeeping and cleaning tasks in Gantz’s residence, was indicted on espionage charges by a court in Lod, a city near Tel Aviv. It said he was arrested after an investigation earlier this month. The Public Defender’s Office, which assigned a lawyer to aid the suspect, said he had acted out of “financial duress” and had not intended to harm national security.

Gal Wolf, the attorney representing him, implied on Kan public radio that the man had intended to extract money without actually being able to carry out any espionage. “A person can boast and say he can deliver the goods, (but) the Shin Bet’s statement does not stand the test of reality,” Wolf said.

In its announcement, the Shin Bet said that while the suspect posed a potential danger to national security, he “was not exposed to classified material and subsequently none was passed on from him to the elements with whom he made contact”.

Gorochovsky allegedly contacted Black Shadow via Telegram on or about October 31 with an offer to pass information from Gantz’s home. Using a false name, the suspect “identified himself as someone working in the home of the Israeli minister of defence, and noted his ability to assist the group in various ways”.

Late last month, the Black Shadow hackers claimed a cyberattack targeting an Israeli internet service provider that attracted widespread media attention. The hacking group has not acknowledged any link to Iran.

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