Jul 19, 2011



Israeli who died in Christchurch earthquake may have been Mossad agent, paper claims

From: NewsCore July 20, 2011 1:39PM

AN Israeli man who died in February's devastating Christchurch earthquake may have been part of a team of Israeli Mossad agents gathering secret information from New Zealand databases.

Three Israelis were among the 181 people who died when the 6.3-magnitude shock hit on February 22. One, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, 24, was found to be carrying at least five passports, according to The Southland Times.

The report claimed the police national computer system has been under investigation by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS) since the earthquake, because of fears Israeli spies loaded software into the system that would allow access to intelligence files.

The report also highlighted a surge of top-level interest from Israel in the quake's aftermath.

Following the earthquake, Prime Minister John Key reportedly received four calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Soon after, Israel's civil defence chief traveled to Christchurch, while a complete Israeli urban search and rescue squad also scrambled to get there - at one stage being confronted by armed local police and forced out of a sealed-off section of the devastated city.

Three other Israelis, who had been travelling in a minivan with Mizrahi, were quickly evacuated back to Israel.

Prime Minister John Key refused to confirm details of an SIS investigation this morning, saying only that he was satisfied there had been no misuse of the police computer. Mr Key confirmed that a dead Israeli was found with multiple passports, but said that none of them were from New Zealand.

Asked if he had any reason to believe that Mossad agents had been active in Christchurch at the time of the earthquake, Mr Key told The New Zealand Herald, "I'm just not in a position to comment on those matters and I'm not going to. I don't think it is in the national interest to do so."

The New Zealand Herald reported that Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur had dismissed the allegations as "science fiction."

"These were youngsters holidaying in your beautiful country ... we encourage our young people to visit New Zealand," Mr Tzur said.

New Zealand police today issued a statement saying its computer systems and the information stored in them were secure.

Acting Chief Information Officer Murray Mitchell said, "These systems are regularly being updated and reviewed, and we are confident that our data and network were not compromised during the Christchurch Earthquake response or subsequently."

Political risk consultant Paul Buchanan, who has worked with intelligence officers in the US, told news website that he believed the four Israelis were probably on a "trolling mission" searching for identities they could steal.

"Because of New Zealand's international reputation the passports are extremely valuable for intelligence services," Mr Buchanan said.

"New Zealand has this reputation for independence and autonomy ... people trust New Zealand."

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