- The nation's spy-catchers are investigating a suspected
Israeli spy ring in Australia.
- The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has
been investigating the suspected cell for up to a month.
- Two Israeli citizens appeared in an Auckland court on
Friday charged with passport fraud.
- One of them, Eli Cara, claimed to be a Sydney travel
agent. He has travelled to New Zealand 24 times since October 2000.
- Cara, 50, and Zoshe Kelman, 30, faced three charges after
being arrested in a police sting operation late last March.
- Another Israeli, Zev William Barkan, 37, escaped from
NZ. A fourth man is believed to be in hiding.
- The men are suspected of being Mossad agents, who allegedly
were gathering fake NZ passports.
- Fake passports are used by intelligence bodies to help
their agents travel undercover.
- Mossad, the Israeli secret service, has been accused
previously of illegally using Canadian passports.
- A spokesman for Attorney-General Philip Ruddock confirmed
yesterday that ASIO had been investigating the matter.
- He said ASIO had been in touch with its NZ counterparts.
- He said the two Israelis had applied for a passport using
the birth certificate of a person with cerebral palsy.
- NZ police staged a surveillance operation of the site
where the passport was sent on March 23. The two Israelis were also staking
out the site, but were then arrested.
- Cara was sitting in a cafe, while Kelman was arrested
walking away after throwing his mobile phone into a bush.
- After the pair was released on bail, Cara denied being
a Mossad agent when asked about his arrest.
- Intelligence sources told the Sunday Herald Sun that
the NZ arrests would have set off alarm bells at ASIO headquarters in Canberra.
- If Israel had gone to the trouble of setting up a genuine
business in Sydney as a front for spying, then that would be an extraordinary
step, a source said.
- ASIO would not be investigating the case unless they
suspected the pair was undeclared spies," the source said.
- Israel (as with other countries) could declare its spies
to ASIO, and the security service would know who was who at the country's
embassy in Canberra.
- "But some countries have undeclared spies, which
is seen as pretty sneaky - and snaky," another source said.
- The time and expense of running a genuine business front
would indicate a deep commitment to an operation in Sydney or the South
- NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark has refused to confirm
whether the arrested men were Mossad agents. But she has contacted the
Israeli government about the case.
- In the late 1970s, Israel was rumoured to have set up
a spy ring in Melbourne to keep an eye on anti-Israeli activists.
- Israel's acting ambassador to NZ and Australia, Orna
Sagiv, said yesterday she would not comment until the court proceedings
had been completed.
- "There are two Israeli citizens there before the
justice system, but it's better to wait before coming to conclusions,"
- A former Israeli Defence Force officer expressed surprise
at the clumsiness of the operation, but added authorities could not be
sure the charged men's names were real if they were Mossad agents.
- "Israel has spies everywhere, but Mossad is usually
more professional than that," the IDF officer said.
- Mossad generally was quite careful about whom it sent
undercover, preferring people with links to the country they were spying
- "The aim is to blend into the local community,"
the officer said. "These agents have layers and layers of false identities."
- A search of Australian company and title records revealed
that Cara has no listed business or property interests in NSW or Victoria.
- Public information contained on the Australian Securities
and Investments Commission database shows that Cara, Kelman and Barkan
are not involved with listed companies or own property in the two states.