DONATE: This is your last chance this year to make a gift supporting the reporting and research of Tikun Olam. The court case I fought and won portrayed below cost $8,000 in legal fees. At the time of my victory, I appealed to readers who helped raise $1,000. Soriano was compelled by the court to pay $2,500 of my court costs. That still leaves $4,500 out of my family’s pocket. If you’d like to strike a blow against intimidation by powerful Israeli figures trying to stifle a free press, won’t you make a gift now via Network for Good (tax-deductible) or Paypal in the sidebar?
מידע חדש על חקירת הקשרים בין וולטר סוריאנו (איש המודיעין המקורב לנתניהו) לבין גורמים רוסיים
Ready for your closeup, Mr. Soriano?
During the State investigation into Bibi Netanyahu’s multiple corruption and fraud charges in 2018, the prime minister fought back, according to Israeli news reports, by hiring an Anglo-Israeli ultra-Orthodox security investigator, Walter Soriano to dig up dirt on the police who were investigating him. Israel’s police chief complained that his officers were being intimidated by this surveillance and abusive behavior.
Israel’s leading TV news magazine, Uvdah, aired a segment noting that Soriano had been a Netanyahu intimate for years and even financed a film honoring his hero brother, Yoni. The private investigator knew his way around the prime minister’s office so well, the staff knew him by the nickname, Bibi’s Bully. The news report noted that Soriano hired former Israeli spies and members of Unit 8200 who engaged in hacking and covert surveillance. Another Israeli news report (see Hebrew video above) ran a similar story.
His company, USG Security, is based in London, only a few blocks from Buckingham Palace. Soriano himself lives in the Haredi enclave of Golders Green, where he founded his own local shul.
Israeli journalist, Raviv Drucker notes that the firm’s subcontractors conduct “sophisticated surveillance, information gathering and data acquisition by various technological means, such as eavesdropping, hacking, and so on.” The USG’s website boasts that its consultants are “all former members of the world’s elite intelligence units, military forces and security organizations, with vast knowledge and practical experience.”
One of Soriano’s past business partners, Yitzhak Molcho, is another close confidant and relative of Netanyahu. Whenever the PM had a delicate mission such as a Palestinian prisoner negotiation, Molcho was invariably appointed for the job. Separately, a former business partner claimed that Soriano had told him in 2006 that Netanyahu was a partner of his in a “British company,” which meant that the once and future prime minister’s door was always open to him. Soriano may have been referring to a predecessor company he once founded, Universe Security Group, in which Molho owned 10% of the company and was paid $200,000 in “finder’s fees” for business he brought to the company. Universe was put into liquidation after one of its diamond merchant clients was robbed and the company’s directors resigned en masse.
Soriano has denied these claims.
The report didn’t note that Soriano has a host of other clients, some more disreputable than others, including former Euro soccer stars and even a Russian oligarch or two. According to a court filing (more on this later), one of them is Roman Abramovitch, who was embroiled in a dispute with Russian dissident, Boris Berezovsky. The latter either committed suicide or was murdered by Russian enemies in England several years ago. Intelligence Online also reveals that another major client is financier, Nathaniel Rothschild, reputed to be the wealthiest member of the very wealthy dynasty.
One of his more important clients was Alonso Ancira, a Mexican mining magnate arrested through Interpol in 2017, accused of corrupt dealings with the country’s oil company, PEMEX. He is now bankrupt. It’s no coincidence that Ancira’s Israeli commercial representative was Netanyahu lawyer and relative, David Shimron. Shimron was also the lawyer for Thyssen Krupp’s business representative, Miki Ganor. It was Ganor who stands accused of funneling millions of dollars in bribes to the IDF navy commander and other senior officers and officials who were to help secure the billion-dollar contract to build Dolphin submarines for the Israeli navy. The police have interrogated Shimron about his involvement in the scheme and he has appeared in court.
Though Soriano is reputed to be private and averse to publicity (only a single known picture of him exists online and it only partially reveals his face), Israel’s The Marker published a new report on Soriano’s intensely litigious nature. In the aftermath of the news reports about his role in the police spy campaign, he sued at least four journalists or news organizations. They include Israel’s foremost investigative reporter, Raviv Drucker, the leading media watchdog publication, 7th Eye, a Haredi publication which published that picture I mentioned, and yours truly.
UPDATE: 7th Eye reports today that Hadrey Haredim, the Orthodox publication mentioned above has settled the lawsuit brought against it. “Caved” is perhaps a better term: it agreed to take down its profiles of Soriano and make $9,000 in charitable donations in Soriano’s name. It also apologized to Soriano for causing him “distress.” In the interest of upholding press freedom and defying bullies who would destroy this fundamental democratic right, I’ve uploaded the censored article (Hebrew) here. To donate to 7th Eye in support of their legal battle, please visit their donation page.
Yes, I had the privilege of being sued by one of Bibi’s henchmen. Apparently, by posting the video of the news report and translating bits of it into English (the “Bibi’s Bully” moniker must’ve really stung), I drew the wrath of Soriano. Though he’s a British citizen and I live in the U.S., he sued me in an Israeli court for libel. The fine could have amounted to $75,000 if it had been sustained in court. Thankfully, it wasn’t. The lower court threw out the case saying that Israel was an improper jurisdiction for pursuing the case. Soriano, having money to burn on lawyer’s fees, appealed to the Supreme Court, which also turned him down.
When I first was sued, I wanted the case to be covered in the Israeli media. So I approached a reporter I knew and offered the details. The result was a series of articles about my case and the others in 7th Eye. More on that below.
The most delicious part of the case was that he had to pay my court costs. As a result, I now have Walter Soriano’s money sitting in my bank account. I will make sure it is used for causes I respect and which he despises.
The problem with Soriano suing smart, capable people with good lawyers is that his own past has become fair game. During discovery, his opponents get to demand all documents relevant to the case. His adversary also gets to depose him and ask questions about all manner of things he’d prefer to be left private. That’s what happened. DIscovery and other legal research turned up far more damaging material (Hebrew) than what was revealed in the original TV story.
Corrupt Business Partners
Soriano not only sues others, his past business partners and others have sued him…frequently. Also, like many other influence peddlers (cf. Elliot Broidy, Joel Zamel, et al), the Anglo-Israeli spymaster dabbled in arms dealing with some shady customers. Among them Georgia’s defense minister to whom he sold three used Spanish helicopters at a hefty profit. The business opportunity was brokered by IDF Gen. Gal Hirsh, a pal of Soriano’s since their army service together. In 2008, Soriano even attempted to arrange a meeting between the government official and Netanyahu himself. The minister later was forced to flee the country after he was accused of taking bribes from, among others, Gal Hirsch. Hirsch is currently under indictment, accused of massive tax fraud. He has also been under investigation by the FBI.
Hounding the Media
The publication is sponsored by the Israeli Democracy Institute. It’s paid staff consists of three individuals.
Yet somehow this tiny venture has conspired with Drucker and another investigative outfit, Forensic News Service, to harass, demonize and smear Soriano and his business reputation. It has also, if the claims are to be believed, conspired to plant nasty stories about Soriano in foreign publications like the Wall Street Journal, the Telegraph, Sunday Times, and LePointe. The legal filings claim that 7th Eye has discovered a ‘secret archive’ of documents regarding past Soriano business transactions and legal disputes. The archive is serving as the basis for all this nasty reporting and it all comes from the hands of this small media watchdog: the great and powerful Oz.
From the narrative his lawyer spun, you’d think it was 7th Eye and Drucker who were media omnipotents, lording their power over the poor, pitiful Soriano. Instead of the immensely wealthy Soriano and his politically-connected client, Bibi Netanyahu. Many of Soriano’s counter-charges against his opponents aren’t even as inventive or persuasive as conspiracy theories propounded by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. For transparency’s sake, we should say here that the PMO rejects the claim that it hired Soriano to spy on the police.
The Anglo-Israeli snoop even sued Twitter for failing to remove tweets posted by Forensic News featuring their own reporting about him. Curiously, Twitter sent me notices that he had demanded my own Tweets be taken down. But I wasn’t included in the lawsuit filed in Dublin.
Another bombshell was dropped this week when a prominent online intelligence publication, Intelligence Online, revealed (paywall) that Justice Department inspector general, Michael Horowitz, released a report on the FBI investigation of the Russian election intervention case. It’s not clear whether the following was in Horowitz’s report or was discovered through another source.
Russian aluminum oligarch and Putin chum, Oleg Deripaska, was a client not only of Soriano, but of the author of the Trump dossier, Christopher Steele. The Russian, like many men of immense business interests, has many rivals and conflicts. That’s why Soriano’s company, USG Security, Black Cube and Orbis, among many others, do a huge business in uncovering corporate and private secrets of their enemies.
Soriano and Deripaska maintained close contact with former SVR office, Evgeny Fokin. After concluding his career as a Russian spy, he became chief of international cooperation for the oligarch’s main holding company, EN+ (which owns Deripraska’s aluminum smelting business, RusAl).
When a former Russian escort, Nastya Rybka, fled Russia for Thailand and threatened to release audio tapes of secret conversations between Deripriaska and Sergei Prikhodko, one of Putin’s Kremlin fixers, it was Soriano who was dispatched to put out the fire. The tapes, which reputedly documented Russian involvement in sabotaging the U.S. election, were never released and Rybka was presumably paid a handsome sum for her silence. Or else threatened with death (or both).
Returning to Soriano, it’s always important to know in which branch of the Israeli military corporate spooks like him served. IO reveals that he worked in IDF military intelligence, AMAN, where he originally was a translator (he was born in Argentina). He was later promoted to desk officer in the interception analysis division.
The Senate Intelligence Committee requested that Soriano appear before it and provide all documents he might have about Deripaska, a close confidant of Putin, and the Israeli covert-ops companies, Psy Group, founded by Joel Zamel, Black Cube and the British security firm, Orbis. To my knowledge, Soriano never responded to the ‘gracious’ invitation.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.