A man who began the passport fraud that resulted in the jailing of two suspected Israeli spies last week has been confirmed as an Israeli diplomat.
Television New Zealand reported yesterday that Zev William Barkan (pictured below), 37, who has fled the country, worked as an attache at the Israeli embassy in Austria as an attache.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff confirmed that Mr Barkan had worked at Israeli embassies in both Vienna and Belgium.
The spokesman said there would be no further comment because lawyers acting for Uriel Zoshe Kelman and Eli Cara, sentenced to six months’ imprisonment last week for passport fraud, have lodged an appeal.
The two men had pleaded guilty but their lawyer said the appeal was against conviction only.
“It’s not an appeal against sentence. It is simply to preserve our position to argue, if we think fit, if it appears it is appropriate, that the pre-trial rulings were incorrect,” lawyer Grant Illingworth, QC, said yesterday.
The government is angry the Israeli government has refused to apologise or even acknowledge its agents were breaking New Zealand’s laws.
TVNZ reported that Barkan worked at the Vienna embassy from 1996 to 2001 and his foreign service career had spanned at least 10 years. It did not say what role he played.
Goff’s spokesman said he did not know what Barkan’s role was with Israel’s foreign service.
TVNZ also reported that a senior agent from Mossad – Israel’s secret intelligence service – had visited New Zealand security officials two months ago, before the passport fraud story hit the headlines.
The agent was spoken to about New Zealand’s concerns about the operations being undertaken by Mossad agents and fears that “sleeper agents” were based in New Zealand.
TVNZ reported it believed two more Israeli men were still being hunted by police in New Zealand in connection with the passport fraud.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Helen Clark refused to confirm reports that police were looking within New Zealand for associates of the Israeli men jailed last week.
Clark confirmed that she been briefed about the police investigation, but would not elaborate.
“I am aware of ongoing investigations,” Clark said.
Asked if there were expected to be any developments shortly, she replied: “It is hard to say, but clearly there are routes for further investigations.”
Barkan is still wanted by police, but they are certain he has fled the country.—NZPA
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