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Updated July 23, 2004

  

  

  

  

  

    

 

Israeli Agents Arrested in Plot To Forge Passports

Israeli Agents Arrested in Plot To Forge Passports


Mossad Targeted Handicapped; Kiwi PM Breaks Diplomatic Ties

 

By Fred Lingel

 

The jailing of two Israeli Mossad agents in New Zealand for stealing the identities of cerebral palsy victims has exposed a wider international passport scam by the spy agency.

On July 14, 2004, two Mossad agentsUriel Kelman, 31, and Eli Cara, 51were jailed for six months and fined $100,000 for fraudulently using the Cerebral Palsy Society to obtain passports. The New Zealand authorities are still seeking two other agents. One is Zev William Barkan, 37, who fled New Zealand when the scam was uncovered, and an unnamed man, who is believed to be hiding out somewhere in the country.

When the Mossad team was unmasked in March 2004, New Zealands Prime Minister Helen Clark (above) privately asked Israel for an apology and was rebuffed. To add insult to injury, the Israeli government denied having agents in New Zealand.

Within days of the jailing of Kelman and Cara, Clark, under public pressure to retaliate against Israel, launched a verbal and diplomatic assault. She accused Israel of breaching international law, as well as her countrys sovereignty. Her greatest worry, she told the media, was that the Mossad actions placed New Zealand passport holders at risk when they traveled abroad.

She immediately suspended diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv and instituted a new rule that will require visiting Israeli diplomats to apply for visas before they can enter her country. She also canceled Foreign Ministry consultations between the two nations scheduled for later this year. In a major snub, she declared that a proposed visit by the Israeli president would not be allowed to take place.

New Zealanders were equally angered by Jewish organizations that attacked the prime minister and accused the New Zealand government of overreaction and anti-Semitism. It was not lost on New Zealanders that Israel regards them as anti-Israeli, following the visit last year of the New Zealand foreign minister to Yasser Arafat in Palestine. In contrast, the rest of the world views New Zealand as a small, neutral nation.

The Mossad scam began in 2003 when Kelman, Cara, Barkan and an unidentified agent arrived in Auckland, New Zealand. First to arrive was Cara, who had been running a bogus travel agency for three years in Sydney.

Cara had lived in Sydney with his wife and three children, but subsequent inquiries into the travel agency could not turn up an address for the company. Between October 2000 and March 2004, Cara is known to have made several trips to New Zealand, using two Israeli passports, one of them a replacement passport.

By all accounts, Cara was the front man for the team, with the task of arranging accommodations and identifying suitable victims to be scammed.

Barkan jetted into Auckland in November 2003 with a U.S. passport that identified him as of Israeli origin. Before leaving the country three weeks later, he had acquired from Cara the identity of a cerebral palsy patient.

So meticulous was Caras research into the victim that he had used the married and maiden name of the victims mother to get a birth certificate, even though she had separated from the victims father in 2001 and was based in Britain. With the birth certificate, it was easy to acquire Social Security documents. Barkan cleverly used the documents to make a doctors appointment. The ploy was to get to know the doctor and later exploit him.

Barkan left the country after that appointment and Kelman flew into Auckland, rented a car and checked into a hotel owned by the Kiwi International chain. Barkans role was to help Cara do research on potential handicapped victims, learning where they lived and when they were born.

The essential ingredient of their strategy was to choose people who, because of their disabilities, would not have passports and would never travel abroad.

Barkan flew back to Auckland on March 6, 2004 and immediately visited the same doctor, pretending he had a minor ailment. His real purpose quickly became apparent.

Now that the doctor had seen him a second time and had clearly accepted his bogus identity, Barkan moved to the next level. Barkan told the doctor he was soon to be married in Australia but had never traveled abroad before and urgently needed a passport. He produced a passport form and pleaded with the doctor to witness it. Unwittingly the doctor agreed.

Barkan had photos taken of him and, with the passport application and other documents, applied to the Department of Internal Affairs for a passport. Meanwhile, he rented an apartment, telling neighbors he was called Jay and was in the country to attend a sailing course. In order to explain his accent, which implied he was Canadian or American, he said his family ran a business in Washington.

In his urgency to get the passport, he made the mistake of phoning the Department of Internal Affairs and talked to an astute passport official, Officer Ian Tingey.

Barkans well-spoken manner and especially his accent immediately struck Tingey, who asked him how he had acquired such an accent. Barkan replied that he had mixed with Canadians.

The reply made Tingey suspicious, and he decided to investigate the passport application. Tingey quickly found a phone number for the family name Barkan had given him. In a subsequent call to the cerebral palsy victims father, the family explained that their son had never applied for a passport and could not travel.

Tingey passed on his findings to the Auckland police, and an investigation was launched.

Unaware they had a problem, Cara and Kelman began arranging for delivery of Barkans new passport. Cara phoned the passport office and requested that it be delivered to a downtown company specializing in travel documents. Later that day, Kelman phoned the travel company, provided the address of the apartment Barkan had rented and requested that when the package arrived, containing the passport, it should be sent by courier to the apartment.

Undercover New Zealand police officers delivered the package to the apartment, but no one was at home. They learned from the building superintendent that an ex-tenant had given him a number to phone when the package arrived. It was the number for a cab company.

One of the undercover cops spotted a suspicious man in a cafe across the street from the apartment building who, he believed, was watching them. It was Cara, using a cell phone to contact other members of the Mossad team to tell them the passport had arrived.

The undercover cops left the building but maintained surveillance on it and also on the cafe. Within an hour, a cab arrived to pick up the package, and police followed it.

The taxi driver, who was not a part of the scam, was directed by telephone to a street address with instructions to phone when he reached the location.

Meanwhile, Kelman, cell phone in hand, was waiting at the location and spotted police as the taxi came into his line of sight. He threw the phone into the bushes and ran away. Police pursued him and seized both him and the cell phone.

At that moment, the phone began ringing, and one of the undercover cops answered it. Somewhat to his amusement, it was the taxi driver asking for instructions on whom to give the package to.

Across the city at the cafe, Cara was also arrested.

Barkan, who may have been hovering nearby, fled the country that same day, and the fourth member of the team went into hiding.

Kelman and Cara denied knowing each other, but their cell phone records proved otherwise and also linked them to Barkan.

Mossads eagerness to go to such lengths to obtain New Zealand passports was linked to its need to move agents through Arab countries without arousing suspicion and to insert them into non-government organizationssome of them UN controlledand into companies with overseas contracts. The spy agency knew that New Zealand was regarded as friendly to the Palestinian cause and as an inoffensive nation in the eyes of Muslims.

New Zealand passports would allow agents to acquire many other valuable documents, including birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates of relatives and Social Security cards. Through that process agents could establish completely new identities, permitting them to travel through the Asian-Pacific region, where there are large Muslim populations and many Al Qaeda supporters.

More importantly, an agent in possession of a New Zealand passport could travel freely throughout Australia and apply for British citizenship, which carries a European passport, enabling unhindered access to EU countries.

But the New Zealand scam highlighted a wider international strategy by Mossad. In 1997, Israel was forced to apologize to Canada after two Mossad agents, using fake Canadian passports, failed in a bid to assassinate the Hamas leader Khalid Meshal in Amman, the Jordanian capital. They used a nerve agent in an aerosol can and sprayed it at Meshal but only managed to use half its content. As they fled, they were arrested.

Meshal was rushed to a hospital and placed on a respirator while the two Israeli agentsBarry Beads and John Kendallwere interrogated. Later that day, King Hussein of Jordan, the late father of the present king, phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hussein threatened Netanyahu that he would place Beads and Kendall on trial if the Mossad did not immediately provide an antidote to save Meshals life. He warned that if Israel did not cooperate, the agents confessions to interrogators would be sent to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, their Canadian passports would be made available to the media, and the whole matter would be turned into an international incident.

Hours later, an Israeli military plane flew into Jordan with the antidote, and Meshals life was saved.

The Mossad agents, Beads and Kendall (not their real names), were handed over to the Canadian Embassy in Amman and then driven across the Allenby Bridge linking Jordan to Israel.

After the episode, Israel assured Canada that the Mossad would never again use Canadian documents, but they have not kept their promise. In response, the Canadian authorities have been silent.

A file on the New Zealand affair has been sent to the Canadians but it is not expected that they will investigate if Barkan and his team had ever been in Canada. The same goes for Australia, which has not commented, even though Cara, one of the New Zealand scam artists, had been based in the Australian capital for several years, running a bogus travel agency.

Presently, Australia is one of George Bushs major allies in the Iraq coalition. With the United States remaining quiet about the New Zealand affair, it is expected Australia will ignore the issue.

Mossads strategy of scamming passports, even from cerebral palsy victims, has not shocked those who have studied the spy agency. It is believed the Mossad has also targeted other small nations regarded as inoffensive in the Arab worldnations like Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland and Norway.

 

American Free Press 2004