According to the New Zealand Herald, the plot was discovered in March when an alert passport official, checking on a passport application, discovered the applicant's name actually belonged to that of another man.

The passport official, Ian Tingey, initially became suspicious when the applicant spoke to him in a Canadian accent.

Tingey telephoned the applicant's parents and was dismayed to discover not only did their son not plan on travelling but was actually tetraplegic.

Horrified at his finding, the official notified the police.

Arrests

According to police records, the male applicant refused to pick up the passport and instead asked that it be delivered to a company specialising in travel documentation.

A telephone request to the company asked that the passport then be delivered to an apartment address. Plainclothes New Zealand officers made the delivery.

When the applicant, Urie Kelman, arrived to pick up his passport he found himself in police custody, the paper reported.

Another man, Eli Cara, was also arrested because police saw him monitoring Kelman from a cafe across the street.

Confessions

Once arrested, both Kelman and Cara admitted to an Auckland court on Friday that they had tried to get a false New Zealand passport.

Currently in a detention facility, the two are to be sentenced on 15 July.

"How the hell have they got hold of our details?"

father of tetraplegic

A third man, Zev Barkan, who had made the application, left New Zealand three days before police arrested Cara and Kelman.

Barkan had a flat only 300m away from where the tetraplegic lived.

Police say a fourth man, whose identity they have yet been able to determine, had also been involved.

Family outraged

"When we first heard about it, we thought goodness gracious, how outrageous," the victim's father told the New Zealand Herald.

"How the hell have they got hold of our details?"

New Zealand police said Barkan had used the son's birth certificate and applied with the mother's maiden name.

According to the paper, police learned that Cara had used two Israeli passports to visit New Zealand 24 times in the past four years.

Cara had claimed to have worked at a Sydney travel agency, but investigations indicated no such agency existed, the paper claimed.

Alleged Mossad plot

Senior government figures believe the men are agents for the Mossad, Israel's secret service.

An unnamed Mossad spy living in New Zealand told the Herald that he suspects the spy agency was behind the scam operation.

He alleged that New Zealand passports are prized by the Israeli spy agency, "because they don't arouse the suspicion of border officials in the Arab world, who see New Zealanders as sympathetic to the Palestinian cause," the paper reported.