By Samuel Burke, CNN • Updated 28th August 2020
Israeli intelligence services have arrested a 25-year-old private housekeeper on suspicion of spying for Russia, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said Friday.
In a televised news conference, Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman said the suspect was employed at the residence of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman, an outspoken opponent of Russia, is a staunch defender of Israel’s security borders.
Shin Bet agents arrested the suspect on Wednesday for alleged violations of the Intelligence Services Law, operating as an agent of a foreign government, according to Shin Bet.
The suspect was identified as Amani G., from the city of Mishor Adumim in northern Israel.
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Amani G., a known Israeli resident, was married to a senior colleague in the defense ministry, according to Shin Bet.
Prosecutors have charged him with being a foreign agent and illegal use of information acquired as a result of spying for a foreign country.
No details were released on the role the suspect is suspected of playing, though he allegedly carried out clandestine operations over the course of a number of years.
Shin Bet said Amani G. met numerous times with a former Russian intelligence officer residing in Israel and undercover agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB).
Some of the work he was charged with carrying out was aimed at furthering the “agenda” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Shin Bet said.
In the days following the announcement of the arrest, Shin Bet issued a video revealing a group of Gazan Palestinian children passing near an Israeli military post, before shining a red laser pointer at soldiers.
Former Israeli military intelligence officer Yossi Fox said there is no indication at this stage that the arrest was connected to his brother’s role at the defense ministry or that of other members of the family.
“I know there are several things happening here, including members of the family. There is certainly not direct contact with Avigdor Lieberman,” he told CNN.
Fox, who is a CNN military analyst, said the current Israeli campaign of arrests and investigations against Russian spies targeting Israel is aggressive and severe.
“If we see there is such a meeting, which is likely not the case, and then you have an individual linked to the Lieberman family who meets Russian agents, if there is an issue of those meetings being personal, that could have the potential of discrediting the entire Lieberman government,” he said.
Retired Israeli diplomat and Middle East historian Yoel Guzansky said that Russian involvement in the Uri Gavrieli case is significant because Putin is “one of the few people we can trust,” whereas Lieberman, unlike Russian President Vladimir Putin, is extremely susceptible to pressure and pressure for revenge.
CNN is attempting to contact all officials named in this story for comment.
Israeli media first reported that a Russian spy ring was making its way to Israel from Moldova on Sunday. This came two weeks after the arrest of at least 10 Russian nationals in Miami, US, accused of being part of an alleged spy ring.
Russia has denied involvement in espionage in the US and accused American agencies of implicating Russians in an effort to undermine its bilateral ties.
A former general in Russia’s military intelligence agency known as the SVR, the Taganka newspaper first reported Amani G.’s involvement in the case on Thursday.
It said Amani G. went to live in Israel in the spring of 2018 and took a job in the Ministry of Defense in late June, working in the ministry’s unclassified zone.
The Taganka report did not say why Amani G. was working for the ministry or provide any details on his alleged contacts with Russian agents.