Sefi Krupsky – Haaretz July 20, 2011
New Zealand security officials suspect Israeli Mossad agents were trying to obtain sensitive information from the state’s databases, reported the local Southland Times newspaper on Tuesday. Authorities suspect that one of the agents was Ofer Mizrahi, one of three Israelis killed in the earthquake in the city of Christchurch last February.
Authorities have launched an investigation into what a senior security official called “suspicious activities of several groups of Israelis during and immediately after the earthquake.”
There was extensive local media coverage of the search teams that were sent from Israel after the earthquake. The two private search parties were sent without prior coordination with officials in Jerusalem, and were met with difficulties after the local authorities prevented them from searching in the area.
The report claims Israel’s reaction to the casualties and missing Israeli citizens was unprecedented. For example, Prime Minister John Key, who is Jewish, spoke with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu four times the day of the earthquake. The report also claims that Israeli ambassador Shemi Tzur , who is posted in the capital Wellington, immediately ordered plane tickets to Christchurch. Furthermore, Home Front Defense Minister Matan Vilnai also left immediately for the disaster-struck city.
The three Israelis who survived the car crash that killed Mizrai fled the scene and left him behind, the report continues, saying Mizrahi had five passports. New Zealand security services suspected he was a Mossad agent after the Israeli search party took interest in his many passports and after his three friends’ quick departure back to Israel. Security services also took note that a Facebook page set up in remembrance of Mizrahi has only five “likes.”
Shemi Tzur, the Israeli ambassador in Wellington, denied the allegations and dismissed them as “science fiction.”
Despite being found with FIVE different passports, New Zealand’s Prime Minister seems at pains to play down any suggestion that Mizrahi was connected with Mossad. How sure can New Zealanders be that their prime minister will put their interests first and NOT Israel’s? ED.
New Zealand PM: No indication that Israeli killed in earthquake was a Mossad spy
DPA – July 20, 2011
Reports that an Israeli killed in the New Zealand earthquake in February was an intelligence agent were wrong, Prime Minister John Key said on Wednesday.
But Key said an investigation found no evidence linking the group of four Israelis and their country’s intelligence service, the Mossad.
“The unusual circumstances which triggered the investigation was the rapid departure from the country of the three surviving members of the group of Israelis in question,” Key said.
“Security agencies conducted the investigation and found no evidence that the people were anything other than backpackers,” he said.
Three Israelis who escaped from the van in which their 23-year-old companion Ofer Mizrahi was killed reportedly left the country within 12 hours.
Key said he was told that Mizrahi was found with only one passport belonging to a European country. Another Israeli passport in his name had been handed to Israeli authorities in New Zealand by his travelling companions before they returned home.
“None of the passports were New Zealand passports,” Key said.
New Zealand authorities caught several Mossad agents in 2004 and convicted them of identity theft for illegally obtaining New Zealand passports.
Key said he had been assured by police that there has been no unauthorized access to their computer system.
Some media reports also pointed out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Key four times after the quake, which killed 181 people and destroyed large parts of New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch.
Key said he spoke to his Israeli counterpart once in the days after the earthquake and said many leaders called to express their condolences and offer assistance.
Such telephone conversations between leaders often require several preparatory calls to set up.