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Alleged Israeli spy kingpin exposed

Published: 6:21PM Thursday July 22, 2004 Source: One News

ONE News has confirmed that a third man at the centre of the Jewish spy scandal was a former diplomat for Israel.

Zev Barkan has been unmasked as a long-serving employee at Israeli embassies in Europe before his New Zealand mission.

The revelation is further evidence that the Israeli government was behind a bungled attempt to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport.

Alleged Mossad agents, Eli Cara and Uri Kelman, pleaded guilty to belonging to an organised criminal group and attempting to obtain a false New Zealand passport. They are now appealing a six-month prison sentence.

But the man they were trying to obtain the passport for slipped away. Barkan applied for the New Zealand passport using the name of a wheelchair bound cerebral palsy suffer in Auckland, a person they knew would be unlikely to travel.

A statement to ONE News from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Austria confirms that Barkan was an attaché at the embassy of Israel in Vienna from 1996 until 2002.

Professor of International Affairs at Victoria University, Ralph Pettman, says the confirmation that Barkan worked for the Israeli government is quite telling.

"That, of course, is direct evidence that this is Israeli state involvement, whether Mossad or diplomatic it's certainly state involvement," Pettman says.

ONE News has learned that New Zealand intelligence officials summoned a senior Mossad agent from his base in Singapore for a "please explain" when the spy scandal first broke. He was asked why New Zealand appeared to be targeted by the agency.

Intelligence officials also said there could be Mossad "sleeper agents" in New Zealand awaiting further orders. Police are seeking at least two other participants believed to remain in New Zealand.

But before Cara and Kelman were sentenced on 15 July, New Zealand and Israel enjoyed a friendly and open diplomatic relationship. Pettman says the attempt to gain a New Zealand passport is the conduct of a nation which sees itself on a permanent war footing.

"It is a siege mentality. And so, under those circumstances, the niceties of international diplomacy and law regularly get put aside in the national interest," he says.

After Cara and Kelman were sentenced, Prime Minister Helen Clark imposed diplomatic sanctions against the Jewish state.

Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff is limited in what he can say.

"I can confirm that Barkan was an employee of the Israeli foreign service over a period of time. However, because there has now been an appeal lodged in regard to the case and it is back before the court,  I cannot comment further on that," Goff says.

Both Clark and Goff have appealed for an explanation and an apology from Israel but there has not been any.

"We expect an explanation and an accounting for what these people were involved with and an assurance that this sort of thing won't happen again," Goff says.

Barkan has a 10-year history with the Israeli foreign service, including being a diplomat in Belgium. New Zealand police are trying to locate him but believe he has fled New Zealand. Barkan was reportedly spotted in North Korea on a mission to help the communist country build a wall to keep its citizens from leaving.

The Israeli embassy in Canberra would not return calls from ONE News.

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