Israeli Agency Says Chinese Gift to Minister Wasn't Bugged

A thermal cup that the Chinese embassy sent to several ministers was suspected to carry a surveillance device. A Shin Bet examination found the component was 'innocent'

Science, Technology and Space Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, last year.
Science, Technology and Space Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, last year.Credit: Emil Salman

The Shin Bet security service concluded on Tuesday that the suspicious device in a thermal cup gifted to an Israeli minister by China was not bugged after a routine screening of the gift found "suspicious materials."

The cup was sent from the Chinese embassy to Science, Technology and Space Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen.

The remains of the thermal cup.

Following the report, the Shin Bet security service said Tuesday that experts have found that the suspicious component is "innocent," used to seal the cup and maintain the temperature.

The gift aroused the suspicions of the office's security guards when it set off an alarm during a security screening. After another examination, the gift was transferred to the Shin Bet over suspicions that it contained a surveillance device.

Following the incident, the Shin Bet contacted additional government offices to locate more of these cups. Another gift was apparently sent to the office of Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and a third to the office of Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper.

The Chinese embassy in Israel responded by refuting the "baseless rumors" describing the gifts as a customary practice and "expression of friendship" for the Passover holiday. They described the suspicious device as a getter, which is used to maintain heat in the mug.

"We ask the relevant media outlets to immediately withdraw the false reports, stop helping spread rumors, and take real actions to eliminate the negative impacts that are already caused. If the media agencies insist on spreading such rumors, we will reserve the right to seek accountability," they added.

Security guards were instructed to remain vigilant regarding gifts from embassies or foreign governments.

Army Radio, which revealed the incident Tuesday, reported that government ministries were asked to increase their supervision of gifts from China over concerns that they may contain "listening devices or cameras."

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