Fred Tulett in the Southland Times reports:
Prime Minister John Key has confirmed one of three Israelis killed in the Christchurch earthquake was carrying multiple passports but is refusing to go into further detail because it is not in the national interest.
The police national computer has been under scrutiny in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake in February because of fears Israeli agents loaded software into the system that would allow backdoor access to highly sensitive intelligence files. …
The Security Intelligence Service ordered the checks as part of an urgent investigation of what one SIS officer described as the suspicious activities of several groups of Israelis during and immediately after the earthquake.
Three Israelis were among the 181 people who died when the earthquake destroyed most of Christchurch’s central business district on February 22. One was found to be carrying at least five passports.
On Sunday, February 26, Mizrahi’s body was recovered from the van and taken to the morgue where, during routine identity checks, he was found to be carrying at least five passports.
Meanwhile, the search and rescue squad dispatched from Israel had arrived in Christchurch but the offer of help was rejected by New Zealand authorities because the squad did not have accreditation from the United Nations.
According to Israeli newspaper reports, the squad was being funded by the parents of two other Israelis killed in the earthquake, Ofer Levy and Gabi Ingel, both 22, who were said to be in New Zealand on a backpacking holiday. The parents made repeated public appeals for the Israeli team to join the rescue, appeals that were dismissed by the New Zealand authorities until squad members were discovered in the sealed off “red zone” of the central city.
Readers may recall I had some minor involvement at the time. I blogged on 4 March:
As a disclosure, one of the dead Israelis is a close friend of one of my good Israeli friends – in fact the person who hosted me in Israel in November 2009. He approached me for assistance in getting a favourable decision made on getting the Israeli team admitted, and I put them in touch with the appropriate MFAT officials. I have no criticism of the MFAT officials who were very responsive and helpful, my criticism is of the ultimate decision maker, which I presume is someone in Civil Defence.
The family I was trying to help is the Ingel family. Their son, who was killed, is not under any suspicion at all of Mossad involvement. I have absolutely no doubt that the parents just genuinely wanted to maximise the chances of finding their son alive.
In terms of the other dead Israeli, with the alleged five passports, I have no first hand knowledge or involvement. The number of passports he had is not confirmed, and many Israelis do have multiple passports due to travel restrictions. I’m not aware of a suggestion that any of the passports were under a fake name, which would suggest something different.
I did become aware some months ago that there were suspicions over the Israeli who was killed in the van. But the evidence is very circumstantial – multiple passports, only a few tributes on a Facebook page etc. At the end of the day, I don’t know anything beyond what is in the paper, and that isn’t enough to make a conclusion on.
The PM is saying it is not in the national interest for him to comment. That to me suggests that the Government does think there may have been improper behaviour, but can’t prove it. And you don’t generally have Governments speculate on these issues unless they have proof.