New Zealand media reported on Tuesday that an Israeli who died in the Christchurch earthquake in February was a spy for the Mossad.
The New Zealand-based Southland Times newspaper reported that the local police’s national computer has been under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, due to a fear that Israeli agents had loaded software into the system that would allow backdoor access to highly sensitive intelligence files.
According to the report, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) ordered the checks as part of an urgent investigation which had been ordered due to what was described as suspicious activities of several groups of Israelis during and immediately after the earthquake.
The report pointed a finger at four Israelis – Ofer Mizrachi from Kibbutz Magal near Haifa (who was killed in the quake), Michal Fraidman, Liron Sade and Guy Jordan. It said the four, who were in Christchurch at the time of the earthquake, became a prime focus of the SIS investigation.
The reason for investigating the four, said the report, was their suspicious behavior after the earthquake: The four had been shopping in the city on the morning of the earthquake and had returned to their van when the quake hit.
Mizrachi, the driver, was killed instantly and the other three managed to escape the vehicle, following which they took photos of the crushed van and left New Zealand within 12 hours.
The Southland Times also noted that when Mizrachi’s body was recovered from the van several days later, he was found to be carrying at least five passports. All this led the SIS to investigate the four Israelis' behavior, claims the report.
Later, the report goes on to say, an unaccredited Israeli search and rescue squad was confronted by armed New Zealand officers and removed from the sealed-off “red zone” of the central city.
The SIS decided to investigate possible links between the many passports found on Mizrachi, the immediate flight of his three companions, the high-powered Israeli interest shown in the earthquake (Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was noted as having called New Zealand Prime Minister John Key four times on the day of the quake), the unexplained behavior of the Israeli search and rescue squad, and a mysterious seventh Israeli, in New Zealand illegally, who was first reported missing in the earthquake and weeks later was reported to have left the country.
The SIS reportedly was also interested in the Facebook tribute page set up for Mizrachi that has attracted only five “likes” in the more than four months it has been on the social media site.
New Zealand police said Tuesday their systems and the information contained on them were secure and were subject to regular security audits and intrusion checks.
Prime Minister John Key Refuses to Discuss SIS Investigation
Prime Minister Key was asked to confirm the details of the SIS investigation on Tuesday, but refused to do so, saying it was not in the national interest.
Key also insisted there had been no misuse of New Zealand passports, and would only say that the calls from Netanyahu on the day of the earthquake were “to offer help and advice.”
“If I believed that it was in the national interest for me to disclose the full details that I have then I would do so but I don't believe it is,” Key was quoted by The Southland Times as having said. “I hasten to add you are making allegations that are not necessarily correct or proven.”
Israeli Ambassador: Israelis Were Not Mossad Agents
Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador Shemi Tzur dismissed as “science fiction” the suspicions that the Israelis who were caught up in the earthquake were Mossad agents.
Tzur, who is based in Canberra but flew into Christchurch hours after the earthquake, was quoted by The Southland Times as saying he was “shocked and upset” that New Zealand’s intelligence agencies would have such suspicions.
He said that Mizrachi’s three friends had left New Zealand so hurriedly because they were shocked and crying and wanted to go home.
“I drove his three friends to the airport so they could go home,” Tzur was quoted as saying. “They were shocked and crying, they were just talking about their friends. To suggest anything else, someone has been feeding you science fiction.”
Regarding Mizrachi’s multiple passports, Tzur said, “I was handed a parcel of his effects and it did contain more than one passport,” but noted that dual citizenship is common in Israel because of difficulties over the use of Israeli passports in some other countries.
Tzur responded to the newspaper’s inquiry regarding the Israeli search and rescue teams, and noted that they were sent by the parents of two Israeli backpackers who also died in the quake.
“I know they were very upset and angry at being turned away,” said Tzur. “They appealed to me and I spoke to the police, who were very apologetic but firm that they could not join the search.”