Mossad seeking fake NZ passports 4/04-Part 1
Here's an unfolding news story from the NEW ZEALAND HERALD and WWW.SCOOP.CO.NZ about suspected Israeli spies who were just caught arranging fake NZ passports for unknown purposes. It's a fascinating read, given all the issues around the 9/11 passports and fake identities. Two of the current suspects are still at large. A photo of one of them is available (the likely passport recipient for whom the operation was set up, with the probably fake name of Zev William Barkan, and an American accent), and little is known (or has been disclosed) about the other one, who may still be in NZ. To follow, all the articles I could find on this (urls at the bottom of each article--see next post for additional articles):
New Zealand Herald - April 17, 2004
[Photo:] Eli Cara, who says he is a travel agent, has travelled to New Zealand 24 times since October 2000. Picture / Kenny Rodger
FOREIGN SPY CHARGES WHIP UP TOP-LEVEL SECURITY STORM
By BRIDGET CARTER, TONY STICKLEY AND EUGENE BINGHAM
EXCLUSIVE - Two men believed by senior Government figures to be Israeli secret service agents have been arrested in Auckland trying to obtain a false New Zealand passport.
The case has set off alarm bells that Mossad spies may be masquerading as harmless New Zealand travellers abroad.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said last night she would not comment while the case was before the court, but confirmed the Government had raised the matter directly with the Israeli Government.
"There will be a strong and public response to this matter once the court action has concluded," she told the Weekend Herald.
Officials, lawyers, police and Helen Clark's spokesman refused to confirm or deny the Mossad link.
The acting Israeli Ambassador, Orna Sagiv, last night refused to comment.
The case is the first known example of foreign agents appearing in a New Zealand court since the 1985 arrest of two French agents who blew up the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour, killing one crewmember.
It is understood the Israeli Government wanted the case kept out of the New Zealand court system, and this issue is likely to have been a point of diplomatic friction.
But the case has proceeded, indicating the Government has not bowed to pressure from Israel.
International security concerns are at an all-time high and New Zealand views the clandestine Israeli secret service activities here with grave concern.
Weekend Herald investigations into the case were stonewalled by New Zealand officials until the men appeared in the Auckland District Court yesterday.
Urie Zoshe Kelman, 30, and Eli Cara, 50, have denied three joint charges including attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport and participating in an organised crime group to obtain a false passport.
Details that emerged in court revealed two other men were involved.
Zev William Barkan, 37, has fled the country and authorities concede they would not know where to find him. A fourth man is believed to be here but police say the others refuse to identify him.
The group had been in and out of the country since last November. Cara, who says he is a Sydney-based travel agent, has travelled in and out 24 times since October 2000.
The court heard the visits since last year were allegedly for the purpose of obtaining a false New Zealand identity for one of the men.
They allegedly made a passport application using a birth certificate of a cerebral palsy sufferer who authorities say was an innocent victim of the scam.
After being tipped off by Internal Affairs, detectives mounted a surveillance operation on March 23, dispatching a package meant to resemble the passport and watching to see who would pick it up.
In the meantime, Cara and Kelman were allegedly carrying out their own surveillance of the package.
Cara was approached by police as he sat in a cafe across the road from one drop-off point. Kelman was arrested after he was seen walking away from another point, throwing a cellphone into bushes.
Kelman and Cara first appeared in court late last month. At yesterday's appearance their case was fast-tracked in highly unusual circumstances. They were committed for trial by consent of the defence, although they did not admit there was a prima facie case.
The men were granted bail by Judge Chris Field who imposed reporting and curfew conditions after rejecting police applications to keep them in custody because of flight risk.
Police were represented by Auckland-based prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch, though Wellington has taken a clear interest in the case and the office of the Solicitor-General, Terence Arnold, QC, has also been involved.
Outside court, Cara denied being a member of the Israeli secret service. Asked if there had been a misunderstanding, he said, "I think so."
As he left the building last night, Cara pulled the hood of his green coat over his head and put his sunglasses on. Kelman, who is a tall, slim man with freckles, short red hair and glasses, refused to answer questions.
During the morning he wore a mauve shirt and carried a plastic Hallensteins shopping bag. Later he had changed into a green T-shirt.
A person at Auckland's President Plaza hotel, where Cara has been staying, said he knew Cara and that he seemed to spend a lot of time in the gym. Kelman has been staying at the Kiwi Hotel in Queen St and the Duxton Hotel. He has Israeli and Canadian passports.
Internationally, there have been cases of Mossad agents being discovered trying to pass themselves off as nationals of neutral countries. In 1997, Mossad agents were caught using Canadian passports during a failed assassination attempt on an Islamic official in Jordan.
In 2000, a Mossad operative was handed a suspended sentence after being accused of espionage and repeated use of false identity documents in Switzerland.
New Zealand passports have become increasingly sought-after on the black market, not just for spies but for terrorists and drug couriers.
Four years ago, a member of an al Qaeda cell that plotted to bomb Los Angeles at the turn of the millennium was uncovered travelling on a stolen New Zealand passport.
It is understood the Government is concerned that revelations that Mossad agents may be using New Zealand travel documents could put New Zealanders at risk.
Helen Clark said last night: "The Government takes seriously any action which challenges the integrity of the New Zealand passport system."
* Mossad is Israel's foremost intelligence agency. It was formed in 1951 and is based in Tel Aviv, with the Hebrew name meaning institute.
* Once highly respected for its skill, the shadowy organisation has been plagued with a series of bungles, from botched assassination attempts to agents being caught using fake passports.
* One of its biggest coups was in 1960 when it found Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who drove the "Jewish Solution" in Europe, then hiding in Argentina.
* But it has lost manpower in recent years and in 2000 it threw open its doors with its first public recruitment drive.
* A 2001 advertisement invited newcomers to become "a partner in the production of clandestine technology".
* Its latest spy chief, Me'ir Dagan, lost his mobile phone this year when his car was broken into in Tel Aviv in February. Mossad ordered the phone company to remotely erase the phone's memory.
New Zealand Herald - April 24, 2004
[Photo:] Uriel Kelman favours a mask, hooded sweatshirt and umbrella for his appearances at the police station. Picture / Kenny Rodger
ISRAELIS IN PASSPORT CASE SHOW THEIR DISGUISE TALENTS
Two men, two different ways of reporting to police on bail.
The two Israelis charged with passport offences were photographed in Auckland this week reporting to Auckland police as part of their bail conditions.
Both have been the subject of international media attention since last Saturday's Weekend Herald reported their arrest and court appearance. Jogging up Albert St in shorts, T-shirt and running shoes towards the police station on Thursday, Eli Cara appeared at the station at 9.30am, wearing a cap and sunglasses.
One-and-a-half hours later, Uriel Kelman arrived, wearing a mask, hooded sweatshirt and holding an umbrella over his face.
Kelman, 30, and Cara, 50, have been on bail since March 23 when police arrested them in connection with fraudulently trying to obtain a New Zealand passport.
Journalists have travelled from Australia in search of the men and at least one journalist is believed to have checked into their hotels in an attempt to find them.
Part of their bail conditions are that they do not associate with each other, that they reside at two Auckland City hotels and report daily to the Auckland City police station. Police said they were satisfied that both men where complying with their conditions of bail and that they had not as yet been changed.
A third man, Zev William Barkan, is also accused in relation to the matter, but police say he has left the country and they don't know where to find him.
New Zealand Herald - April 22, 2004
[Photo:] Eli Cara is jointly charged with passport-related offences. Picture / Kenny Rodger
ISRAELI MAN ENTERED NZ USING CANADIAN PASSPORT, COURT TOLD
By FRAN O'SULLIVAN, assistant editor
Documents produced at the Auckland District Court show an Israeli man who allegedly tried to obtain a false New Zealand passport previously came to this country on a Canadian passport.
Uri Kelman - facing joint charges with fellow Israeli Eli Cara - entered New Zealand this year on his Israeli passport. But on a visit five years ago Kelman entered Auckland on his Canadian passport, leaving eight weeks later on a temporary replacement Canadian passport he had obtained in New Zealand.
Government officials probed the travel history of Cara and Kelman before their appearance in the Auckland District Court last Friday.
Senior Customs officer Thomas Mitchell used the service's computer system, known as Cusmod, to pin down their movements.
Police also probed the travel history of Israeli Zev Barkman, an alleged "third man" who applied for a New Zealand passport in the name of a cerebral palsy sufferer but left the country without being apprehended by police. Another so-far unidentified man, who police claim to be an accomplice, is understood to still be in New Zealand.
Each time someone leaves or enters New Zealand it is recorded in Cusmod with the person's name and date of birth, their passport number, arrival or departure date and the flight on which they arrive or depart.
Mr Mitchell's search found that Kelman arrived at Auckland International Airport on Qantas flight QF101 from Los Angeles on February 2, 1999, using his Canadian passport CA PC 038241.
On March 30, 1999, he left through Christchurch, flying to Melbourne on QF36 on Canadian passport CA PC 038241.
A police summary of facts presented to the court says the second passport was a temporary replacement obtained by Kelman while in New Zealand.
In two subsequent trips to New Zealand - including his most recent arrival from Sydney to Auckland on QF155 on March 7 - Kelman travelled on his Israeli passport Il6938675.
On November 11 last year Kelman arrived in Auckland by Cathay Pacific the same day as Mr Barkan - whom a police summary describes as a "colleague of Kelman", travelling on a US passport.
The next day, Kelman's fellow defendant, Eli Cara, arrived on his Israeli passport Il 10098226
The purpose of the three visiting New Zealand at the same time was still not known, the police summary said.
Mr Mitchell said the computer printout of Cara's movements showed he travelled to Auckland six more times from his Sydney location before his March arrest. The police summary of facts indicates Cara has travelled to New Zealand 24 times in all since October 2000 using two Israeli passports, Il 8662450, and Il10098226, a replacement.
Mr Barkan also travelled in and out of Auckland twice more before leaving on March 20 - three days before Cara and Kelman were arrested.
Cara and Kelman have pleaded not guilty to three joint charges laid by Auckland police:
* Participating in a criminal group knowing that it is an organised criminal group and that participation contributed to the occurence of criminal activity, namely obtaining a document, namely a false New Zealand passport.
* Participating in a criminal group knowing that it was an organised criminal group and was reckless as to whether participation may contribute to the occurence of criminal activity, namely obtaining a false NZ passport.
* With intent to obtain any property and without claim of right, attempting to obtain a document, namely a New Zealand passport, capable of being used for service.
New Zealand Herald - April 22, 2004
CANADIANS WATCH UNFOLDING PASSPORT CASE
By FRAN O'SULLIVAN, assistant editor
Canadian authorities are looking into the Israeli passport case unfolding in Auckland.
In 1997, Israel gave Canada a solemn assurance it would ensure that Canadian passports would not be used for covert purposes. Two Mossad agents had been caught using fake Canadian passports during a failed assassination attempt on Khalid Mash-al - a top Hamas official - in Jordan during 1997.
Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said the Canadian authorities were aware of the allegations in New Zealand.
"They are investigating the information," he said. "It has to be properly, truly investigated by the competent authorities and the passport office plus the usual people in security and intelligence.
"Your people involved in that line of business don't comment on those cases - and our people don't comment either.
"But suffice to say the matter is properly investigated before any conclusion is drawn.
"All the facts have to be unearthed."
Canadian High Commissioner John Donaghy confirmed he had sent copies of the Herald's exclusive coverage to his bosses in Ottawa. Mr Donaghy has not sought separate discussions with Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff, or his officials: "I don't have any instructions to do that at this stage."
The US embassy declined any comment.
The 1997 revelation that Israeli spies had passed themselves off as Canadians during covert operations angered the Canadian Federal Government which feared the practice would prompt vigilante attacks against ordinary Canadians living or travelling on business in the Middle East.
The then Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy ordered David Berger, the Ambassador to Israel, to leave until Mossad promised to stop the practice.
Mr Berger did not return to Israel until after a letter was sent by Israeli Government officials who pledged to "undertake measures to ensure it never happens again".
Subsequent diplomatic incidents involving the alleged use by Israeli agents of fake Canadian passports have been played down by Ottawa.
New Zealand Herald - April 24, 2004 - 1.00pm
WHY MOSSAD MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN NEW ZEALAND
By PHIL TAYLOR and EUGENE BINGHAM
Long before George W. Bush declared his war on terrorism, Israel had begun its own. The advance guard in this never-ending battle against foes of the Jewish state lurk near the frontline, but many more are at work far behind enemy lines.
They are the agents of Mossad, Israel's foremost intelligence agency.
Since its inception in 1951, the agency has earned a formidable reputation as a key self-defence pillar of a state which has been almost permanently under siege.
When you think of Mossad, you think of daring missions and rescues. But you also think of assassinations of Israel's enemies.
One of its legend-building operations came during one of Israel's darkest hours - the massacre of Israeli athletes by the Palestinian terror group Black September at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Mossad assassination teams were set up on the orders of Israel's premier of the time, Golda Meir, and tasked to find and kill the people Israel believed were involved in organising the massacre. Within two years of the Munich attack eight of 11 people on the original hit list were assassinated.
But why would Mossad have any interest in New Zealand? This week, the Weekend Herald traced a former Mossad agent living in New Zealand who played a part in the counter-terrorist campaign.
He has lived half his life here, is a New Zealand citizen and holds a respected position in society.
He said he has not had any official role with the Israeli Government since moving to New Zealand.
But his contacts include Israeli Government officials.
The Weekend Herald met him twice last week. He spoke on condition he would not be identified.
He said his reason for coming to New Zealand was to change his life.
"I was fed up with all this bloodshed. I'd spent my life in that environment and I wanted something different."
He emigrated with the assistance of the New Zealand Government, which paid resettlement expenses because there was a skills shortage in the career in which he has since worked.
The Government, he believes, would be unaware of his background.
Mossad operations are well planned, he said, but luck is always a factor. "Sometimes luck kills you and sometimes it saves you."
And he noted that despite Mossad's history of daring "they **** up sometimes".
The former agent is convinced that Mossad's interest in New Zealand is likely to be limited to passports.
He has no doubts that if Mossad were interested in New Zealand passports they would prefer the real thing to a fake.
"They can fake them but here it is the real thing. You get a genuine New Zealand passport."
In the past, passports would be sought in the name of people who had died but with computerised records officials can easily check for death certificates. The next logical step was to find someone who was alive but never likely to travel.
Dr Jim Rolfe, a former New Zealand Army officer and defence analyst who lectures at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Honolulu, says he thought the era of intelligence agencies obtaining false documents in this way ended with the Cold War, during which Russia had a reputation for snaffling foreign passports.
Clearly, he says, it has not.
The value of a passport to an intelligence agent is the new identity it allows him to assume.
"With a New Zealand passport they can work in international organisations or NGOs in the Middle East as an unsuspected person.
"It's not necessarily that being a New Zealander makes you more trusted, it's just that you're not an Israeli."
Passports could also enable an agent to obtain other useful documents or identities.
"With a New Zealand passport, depending on the true owner's background, that might get you British permanent residency and you might then get an EU passport."
Dr Michael McKinley, an international relations and diplomacy expert at the Australian National University in Canberra, said the value of the New Zealand passport was its "inoffensiveness" - something of which the Wellington-born academic has had personal experience.
About three years ago, he was travelling to Portugal but was told he could not get on the plane with his Australian passport. But when he pulled out his New Zealand passport the problem vanished and he was allowed to board.
McKinley believed it would be prudent to assume that Mossad would have an interest in the Asia-Pacific region.
"Where there is a significant Muslim population which possesses within it a minority of people who are sympathetic to the aims of al Qaeda or Jemaah Islamiyah, or whoever, you will, I think, find Mossad takes an interest."
In Australia, with a large population of Muslims, a few of whom have been known to have fundamentalist sympathies, it would be natural for Mossad to watch closely.
He was not so sure about New Zealand, but said "New Zealand can be thought of as a place where you can hide away - a bit more, I suppose, than Sydney and Melbourne".
This was also known to terrorists, so Mossad could come to New Zealand to check individuals lying low.
Rolfe, too, believed Australia would be more interesting to Mossad than New Zealand. But obtaining a New Zealand passport would make the job of accessing Australia easier.
Rolfe says if a Mossad group was working in Australia, "some of them, no doubt, will be being serviced out of the Israeli Embassy. Some of them will be there as citizens of other countries. Some of them will be there as Australian citizens and some of them [may have been] intending to be there as New Zealand citizens".
The mix of citizenship would make it less easy for outsiders to figure out connections.
"A lot of what this kind of activity is, is throwing dust up in the air. You are trying to conceal all sorts of things, sometimes just for the sake of concealing them to confuse people who try and backtrack."
"Why do it simply when you can add a bit of external complexity so that if someone was trying to put things together they would see two separate operations rather than one?"
McKinley believed there would "almost certainly" be a declared Mossad staff member inside the Canberra embassy. As to who else was helping, it may never be known.
"Mossad, to the extent that public statements have ever been made by people who work for them, seems to rely a great deal on the indigenous Jewish population. That has been an open boast for some years."
The news website Scoop this week quoted sources as confirming that the strength of the organisation was how it relied on help from outsiders.
"Mossad is able to function on a low number of core [agents] due to a loyal Jewish community outside Israel. The loyalists are networked via a system of sayanim, or volunteer Jewish helpers," says Scoop.
"There are reportedly thousands of sayanim around the world. Their role will be specific to their professions: A loyalist in the travel industry could help Mossad obtain documents."
In this way, Mossad's work can be carried out in a low-key way, with the added bonus that its own agents are not put at risk.
As the former agent can attest, there is enough in their line of work that is risky enough.
He admits knowing personally members of the assassination squads set up to hunt the planners of the Munich massacre, and describes them as "the most remarkable people I have met in my life".
The operation was described by George Jonas in his book, Vengeance, an account which the former agent said is accurate. Jonas described the activities of one of the Mossad hit teams whose work led to the killing of eight on the Munich list.
In the process, two of its five members were killed, one after being lured with the prospect of sex by a freelance female assassin.
A second team shot dead an innocent waiter in Lillehammer, Norway, in July 1973, having mistaken him for Ali Hassan Salameh, regarded by Israel as the primary architect of the Munich massacre and Mossad's number one target.
Six of the Israeli hit team members were arrested, five were convicted for killing the waiter and sentenced to serve from two to five and a half years in prison.
All were released by the Norwegians within 22 months.
The killing of the waiter in Lillehammer is cited by the former agent as an example that agencies as sophisticated as Mossad do make mistakes.
He told the Weekend Herald he was pessimistic "for the first time in my life about the future for the Middle East.
The Road Map - much vaunted by the Bush Administration - did not discuss key issues such as the future of Jerusalem and defining boundaries and had been overwhelmed by tit-for-tat bombings and assassinations.
He said terrorist attacks had to be responded to with force but he acknowledged a cycle of violence usually resulted.
"They can't sit around a table anymore. They haven't even been able to finalise a framework to get to a starting point."
He cautioned against New Zealanders thinking the country's remoteness meant it wasn't touched by world events. September 11 had made New Zealand passports more valuable. New Zealand was a small, neutral country seen by the Arab world as sympathetic.
By contrast, the Israeli Government regarded the New Zealand Government as "anti-Israel", he said. That view would have been enhanced by Foreign Minister Phil Goff's meeting with Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat last year.
McKinley believes the Australian and New Zealand Governments would be "pissed off" if Mossad had strayed into their patch, although Rolfe did not think the New Zealand intelligence agencies would be morally outraged.
More likely, says Rolfe, they would be thinking of what they could learn from the situation.
"What can we learn in terms of our passport procedures? What can we learn about tradecraft generally? Did the Israelis do anything different from the Russians in the 1950s when New Zealand passports were acquired?"
New Zealand Herald - April 20, 2004
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN?
By BRIDGET CARTER
Police made a public appeal on national television for a suspected Mossad spy two days after Israelis were arrested for allegedly trying to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport.
Zev William Barkan, 37, appeared on the reality programme Police Ten 7 last month as being wanted for fraudulently obtaining a New Zealand passport.
The photo of Barkan used on the programme was the one he submitted for an urgent passport last month in the name of a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer, "Mr A", who has name suppression.
But the police now believe the missing man has left the country and admit they do not know where to find him.
Barkan had been in and out of the country since November on a US passport and court documents reveal that he flatted for several weeks with a woman in Sandringham, stayed with a couple in Mt Eden and told people he was here to go on a sailing course.
While in New Zealand he saw a doctor.
People he stayed with called him Jay. They said he returned late at night, always ate out and said his family had a doors and windows business where he lived in Washington DC.
His most recent trip began last month when he began urgently arranging a passport.
The talkative and friendly Barkan used the name of "Mr A", told officials he was in a rush to get a New Zealand passport because he was about to get married and said that he had never travelled. His accent came from mixing with Canadians, he told an Internal Affairs staff member.
The two men allegedly caught up with Barkan's activities are Uri Kelman, 30, and Eli Cara, 50, who appeared in the Auckland District Court on passport fraud charges last week.
Contact had allegedly been made with the pair. It was believed instructions were given for them to ensure a New Zealand passport for Barkan was picked up after he left the country on March 20.
The pair were arrested after police set a trap on March 23.
Detective Sergeant Aaron Pascoe would not comment last night when asked what attempts police were still making to track Barkan.
But the case has set off warning bells for the New Zealand Cerebral Palsy Society, which is concerned people with disabilities will be a further target for such activity.
Chief executive Anne Murphy said it was obvious "Mr A" had been "highlighted" by those allegedly involved. He was a heavy internet user and one possibility was that his identity had been stolen by someone who knew of his status online.
Although he was aware of what was happening, she said, he was not interested in knowing about it.
"We want the message to get out that people with disabilities need to be careful over such personal things such as birth certificates and whether or not they have a passport."
Kelman and Cara have denied three charges, including attempting to obtain a New Zealand passport and participating in an organised crime group to obtain a passport.
The pair have been on bail for several weeks, and have been instructed by the courts to stay in two Auckland hotels.
Staff at both hotels said the men had checked out. Police said they were satisfied that the pair were complying with their bail conditions.
A fourth person is believed to be involved and is understood to be still in New Zealand.
New Zealand Herald - April 20, 2004
ISRAELI'S SYDNEY TRAVEL AGENCY CAN'T BE FOUND
By GREG ANSLEY
CANBERRA - The travel agency alleged Israeli spy Eli Cara claims to operate in Sydney does not exist - or if it does, it is operating illegally.
Cara, 50, and Urie Zoshe Kelman are on bail on charges of attempting to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport.
Cara, who rented a large home in Turramurra on Sydney's North Shore in 2001, told New Zealand authorities he was a travel agent.
Telephone calls to his home yesterday were accepted by a machine answering as "Eastward Bound", on which Cara also identifies himself.
No one returned the Herald's calls, although Cara is understood to be living in Sydney with his wife and several children.
Under New South Wales law all travel agents must be registered with the Department of Fair Trading.
No record of Eastward Bound could be found by the department yesterday.
Before they can operate as a registered business, travel agents must also belong to the Australia-wide Travel Compensation Fund.
The fund ensures agents have sufficient money behind them and requires compulsory annual renewal to be supported by audited financial statements. Neither Eli Cara nor Eastward Bound is listed at the fund.
Eastward Bound is not listed in Sydney's White or Yellow Pages, nor on other related databases.
Travel agents in Turramurra were also mystified yesterday by Cara and his alleged agency.
"I've never heard of it at all," said Kim Bourke of Turramurra Travel Associates. "It's not a name or a product I've ever come across, and we've been here for 15 years."
Chris Soupidis, of Blue Dolphin Travel, also said he had not heard of Cara or Eastward Bound. "I've never come across him," he said.
See next post for additional articles.