New Zealand suspended high-level contacts with Israel after two suspected members of Israel‘s Mossad intelligence service were jailed in July for trying to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports.
A New Zealand court sentenced Uriel Zoshe Kelman and Eli Cara to six months in prison after they pleaded guilty to trying to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport.
The two Israeli men had assumed the identity of a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy victim who lived in their neighbourhood.
The story broke when the New Zealand Herald reported that
an alert passport official, checking on a passport application, discovered the applicant’s name actually belonged to that of another man who was tetraplegic.
The passport official, Ian Tingey, initially became suspicious when the applicant spoke to him in a Canadian accent.
A third man, Zev William Barkan, 37, is being hunted by New
Zealand police in connection with the scandal, according to reports in Auckland.
It is that “third man” in the intrigue that has attracted the
attention of Canadian authorities.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Reynald Doiron said officials were looking into reports that Barkan was travelling on a stolen Canadian passport in the name of Kevin William Hunter.
“We are still checking; this is of concern,” he said, but declined to say how long the probe would take or to provide further details.
According to New Zealand police, Barkan applied for a New Zealand passport along with Kelman and Cara.
TVNZ television said Barkan had worked in the Israeli embassy in Austria and that this had been confirmed to them by the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
It said he has also worked for the Israeli Foreign Service in Belgium and was still in the Foreign Service.
Israel has refused to apologise to New Zealand over the affair and has not acknowledged that the two men worked for Mossad.
New Zealand‘s Prime Minister Helen Clark says she has no doubt the two men worked for the service, but said they had not been charged with espionage because it would have been difficult to supply sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.