Australians aware of agent’s connection to Mossad

AUSTRALIAN intelligence officials knew the man at the centre of the Kiwi Israeli spy scandal was a long-time Mossad agent well before he began the New Zealand passport operation.

Since serving three months in prison in New Zealand, Elisha Cara has returned to Israel. He resigned from Mossad and recently got a job as a manager in credit card company Visa Israel.

Cara set up a base in Sydney and travelled to and from New Zealand 24 times between October 2000 and March 2004 without any apparent interest from the local intelligence services.

Details of the case and confirmation of Cara’s Mossad background have been leaked by Western Europe-based foreign intelligence sources.

The sources, none of whom are New Zealanders, reveal that Cara had headed another Mossad mission that went spectacularly wrong just two years before being put in charge of obtaining illegal New Zealand passports.

Cara’s colleagues, Uriel Kelman and Zev Barkan (also known as Zev Bruckenstein), were also fulltime officers in Mossad, the 53-year-old agency with an estimated 1200 staff and headquarters about 10km north of Tel Aviv.

Cara was 50, Kelman, 30, and Barkan, 36, at the time of Cara and Kelman’s arrests. Their mission: to obtain “top quality” false passports for use in sensitive Mossad operations.

In contrast, the Israeli diplomat expelled from Canberra several weeks ago in mysterious circumstances, Amir Lati, is definitely not a Mossad agent, the sources say.

According to the sources, earlier in Cara’s Mossad career he took part in a routine liaison meeting between Mossad and its “friendly counterparts” in Australia, exchanging views and sharing intelligence. They say that it showed “complacency” in Mossad that the same officer was later used for a covert operation in a country where his name and face were known.

It also suggests that the Australian Security Intelligence Service and the New Zealand SIS are not being vigilant in their monitoring of Israeli spies. The passport scam was uncovered only because of Mossad carelessness_using an agent without a New Zealand accent to talk to an immigration official.

Since Cara’s presence provided clear evidence of Mossad links, it is unclear why the agents got away with a minimal three months’ prison.

Government security agencies are sensitive about false pass-ports being used by foreigners for illegal activities and Foreign Minister Phil Goff noted that Cara’s passports could be for “an assassination in a third country”.

Prime Minister Helen Clark and an ASIO spokesperson would not be drawn on Australia’s prior knowledge of Cara.

The Australia-New Zealand operation was, according to the sources, aimed entirely at obtaining false passports for use in covert Mossad operations elsewhere on the world. It was a standard operation, nothing unusual or dangerous. Cara’s three years in Sydney were a normal part of the time-consuming preparations for important Mossad operations.

Former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky has described the different qualities of passports used by the agency: top, second, field operation and throwaway. Top-quality passports the kind Cara was tasked with obtaining in New Zealand are real passports with a real person’s name that can withstand official checks in the country of origin.

The passport operation employed full-time Mossad staff and local Jewish citizens (called sayanim) who help Mossad within foreign countries. In New Zealand, one sayanim participant was apparently former Auckland Jewish Council member Tony Resnick.

The passport scam was discovered when the agents applied for a passport in the name of an Auckland man with cerebral palsy. Agent Zev Barkan flew into New Zealand to have his photograph accompany the application, which would have provided a top-quality passport with the agent’s face and the name of a real New Zealander.

The man with cerebral palsy belonged to St John Ambulance, where Resnick worked as an ambulance officer. Resnick’s suspected role was finding identities for false passports. He fled to Israel after Cara and Kelman were arrested.

The sources say that any other passports obtained in New Zealand before the arrests would have been deposited in the Mossad central pool for future operations.