Ecstasy Smuggling, a Fake Diplomatic Passport and Rabin: Who Is the Israeli Lawmaker Accused of Spying for Iran?

Gonen Segev, 62, has an impressive criminal record, ranging from passport forgery to credit card fraud, drug smuggling (though he 'thought they were M&Ms') and now espionage

Gonen Segev, then Energy Ministry, speaking with then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin
Saar Yaacov, GPO

The latest charge against former Israeli politician Gonen Segev, 62, indicted Monday for allegedly spying for Iran, is only the latest episode in a chain of embarrassing criminal activity.

Segev, a former politician, medical doctor, and farmer, is most famous for his April 2004 arrest for attempting to smuggle 6 kilograms of ecstasy - 32,000 tablets - from Amsterdam to Israel, that he claimed he thought were M&Ms.

But the drug link was not the first of Segev's criminal exploits. Segev had attempted to smuggle the pills after fraudulently extending his diplomatic passport with the use of white-out and a pencil in order to avoid a search by Dutch airport authorities. He failed, took a plea deal and was sentenced to five years in prison for forgery and attempted drug smuggling. His medical license was revoked in 2007 due to his multiple criminal convictions.

Segev was also convicted for electronic commercial fraud after having his ex-wife call the credit card company while he was in Hong Kong to report that he was no longer in posession of the card. Unfortunately for him, he had been filmed at the Hong Kong ATM in November 2003 withdrawing the 20,387 NIS (approximately $5,600) that he had claimed were stolen. 

Segev's cousin, who testified in his court hearing in 2004, said Segev was "a pathological liar who makes excuses and evades responsibilities for his actions."

In 2004, the Defense Ministry accused Segev of allegedly approaching the Sri Lankan army and offering to provide it with Israeli weapons systems at a cheaper rate than they were paying.

Segev was first elected to the Israeli Knesset in 1992 as a member of the now defunct Tzomet right-wing political party and served as an opposition MK and a member of the Knesset's Finance Committee. Segev split from Tzomet in 1994 to form his own party, Yiud, and in 1995 joined the Yitzhak Rabin government as its youngest minister. He served as energy and infrastructure minister, a position he was offered in return for a vote for the Oslo Accords. Tzomet opposed these accords, which hung on a thread and could not have passed without Segev's vote.

After ending his political career in 1996, Segev became a businessman, which quickly led to his first criminal involvement. He moved directly from the Energy Ministry to a consultancy with Shaul Eisenberg's Israel Corporation, which was engaged in the sector as well. The police opened an investigation against Segev under suspicion that he had used his previous political position in Eisenberg's benefit. The case was eventually closed without charges.

In 2002, Israeli security services uncovered a Hezbollah plot to kidnap Israeli businessmen, and Segev was named among them. At the time, Segev said he received a warning from the Shin Bet about the plot, claiming he had no idea why he was targeted.

On Monday, the Shin Bet and Israel Police announced that Segev was arrested under suspicion of spying for Iranian intelligence against Israel. Segev had reportedly visited Iran twice to meet with his handlers.

Segev left Israel in 2007 after his release from prison. Since 2012, he lived in Nigeria and worked as a physician. He managed a clinic in Abuja that served Israeli and foreign businesspeople, diplomats and ambassadors. An Israeli businessman who maintains business connections in Nigeria told Haaretz that the clinic was successful and that "Segev served all the ambassadors and embassy workers, he had access to them all." The same source said that Segev never asked him any security-related question although he works with the security industry. The businessman also told Haaretz that any Israeli who came to work in Nigeria, many of whom come after military service, went through Segev's clinic.

In 2016, Segev applied to the Israeli Health Ministry in an attempt to renew his license in order to "contribute to Israeli society and to the country I love."