Israeli Agents Arrested in Plot To Forge
Mossad Targeted Handicapped; Kiwi PM Breaks Diplomatic Ties
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
On July 14, 2004, two Mossad agents—Uriel Kelman,
31, and Eli Cara, 51—were 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 Zealand’s 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 country’s sovereignty. Her greatest worry, she told the media, was that
the Mossad actions placed New Zealand passport holders at risk when they
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
So meticulous was Cara’s research into the victim
that he had used the married and maiden name of the victim’s mother to get a
birth certificate, even though she had separated from the victim’s 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
doctor’s appointment. The ploy was to get to know the doctor and later exploit
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. Barkan’s role was to help Cara do research on
potential handicapped victims, learning where they lived and when they were
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.
Barkan’s 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 victim’s 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 Barkan’s 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
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
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.
Mossad’s 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
organizations—some of them UN controlled—and 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
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 agents—Barry Beads and John Kendall—were
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 Meshal’s 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 Meshal’s 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
Presently, Australia is one of George Bush’s 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.
Mossad’s 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 world—nations like Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland