The spies who stole my name

Bridget Carter, Eugene Bingham and Phil Taylor | July 3

NZ Herald – An Auckland family have told how their tetraplegic son’s identity was stolen by an Israeli secret agent who moved in just down the road.

Zev Barkan, who has fled New Zealand and escaped the justice faced yesterday by his two co-accused spies, lived within 300m of the man in whose name he applied for a passport to assume a New Zealand identity.

“Barkan lived in the street next door to where [the victim] was living,” said his father, speaking exclusively to the Weekend Herald.

“He must have been able to see all these handicapped people going around in wheelchairs. I don’t know if that is relevant or coincidence.”

The story of the handicapped man caught up in the spy story emerged yesterday after two men pleaded guilty to a charge of trying to obtain a false New Zealand passport.

Urie Kelman and Eli Cara were remanded in custody and will be sentenced on July 15.

Mystery still surrounds how the spies selected their victim, who lives in care.

The family – whose identity is suppressed – were drawn into the world of international intrigue when a Department of Internal Affairs officer, Ian Tingey, rang them in March asking if their son had applied for a passport and had travel plans.

The victim, who is his 30s and has cerebral palsy due to brain damage at birth, is in no state to do either.

“[My son] is quite intelligent, he just can’t speak, can’t toilet or feed himself,” said the father. “He is a person in his own right. He lives in his own world and most of it is in his head – he can’t talk to you and me.

“He has a fully operational brain – he was writing plays when he was about 11 or 12.”

He communicates by using a device with a protruding connection which is attached to his head. He uses it to tap onto a computer pad and can thereby slowly type.

Mr Tingey became suspicious about a passport application made in the victim’s name after a phone call from a well-spoken man who claimed to be the applicant and was seeking to speed up the process.

The caller faxed through a travel itinerary and ticketing information to help the process. But Mr Tingey had noted the caller had what he thought was an underlying Canadian or American accent.

On March 19, Mr Tingey contacted the victim’s father and was told the applicant could not be his son.

“When we first heard about it, we thought goodness gracious, how outrageous,” said the father. “How the hell have they got hold of our details?”

The victim himself treats it in a minor way, his father said.

When Barkan applied for the passport, he used the victim’s birth certificate, which had been applied for using the victim’s mother’s name.

She is no longer married to the victim’s father and has lived in Britain for two years working with cerebral palsy victims.

“They used her married name, which she hasn’t used for God knows how long, and they also used her middle name, which she has never answered to,” said the father. The mother flew out from Britain to see if she could help with police inquiries, but there was nothing she could add as to why her son was selected.

“It’s great the police have caught these guys but it still doesn’t answer the questions of how and why they targeted him,” said the father.

When Internal Affairs informed the police about its suspicions, a covert operation began.

Detectives uncovered details of four people, their movements in and out of the country, where they stayed, cars they rented.

The men were Kelman, Cara, Barkan and a fourth person, whose identity police have not discovered.

The police summary of facts lists the occupations of the three as unknown, but senior Government figures believe they are agents for Mossad, Israel’s secret service.

The guilty plea came suddenly, after a fast-tracked depositions hearing and extraordinary efforts by Kelman to avoid being photographed by the media.

Kelman and Cara claimed not to know each other or Barkan but police say inquiries reveal otherwise.

There were calls made between cellphones found in the possession of Kelman and Cara, and keys to a car rented by Barkan were found in Kelman’s possession.

The defendants have claimed they met Barkan by chance and were merely good Samaritans helping someone. They initially denied knowing there was anything illegal in what they or Barkan did.

Soon after beginning inquiries, police learned that Cara particularly was a regular visitor to New Zealand, having travelled here 24 times between October 2000 and March 2004. He used two Israeli passports, the second a replacement.

Cara claimed to be a travel agent and to operate a Sydney travel agency. But inquiries by the Weekend Herald indicate it does not exist – or if it does, it operated illegally.

Barkan appears to have come to New Zealand with the purpose of illegally obtaining a New Zealand passport using an assumed identity.

He first came here, according to the police summary of facts, in November 2003, travelling on a United States passport which identified him as an Israeli.

Later that month, Barkan visited a doctor’s surgery in Lynfield, using the victim’s name.

On December 3, Barkan left the country. The next day Internal Affairs received an order for a birth certificate in the victim’s name. This was processed and the certificate sent to the Auckland post office box number supplied.

Barkan, Cara and Kelman all travelled in and out of New Zealand during December, apparently working on the passport scam.

In March, all three returned to New Zealand. On March 6, Barkan rented an inner-city apartment on a short-term agreement in St Paul St.

Six days later he returned to the Lynfield doctor complaining of a minor ailment. Barkan told GP Keith Way to witness his passport application, telling him it was needed urgently as he was soon to marry in Australia. The doctor filled out the form.

On March 13 an urgent application for a passport was lodged with Internal Affairs in Wellington. With it was a genuine birth certificate and a passport-sized photograph of Barkan. Cara left New Zealand that day. Barkan left a week later.

Kelman stayed in Auckland, where on a Kiwi International Hotel registration form he entered the same vehicle which records indicate was rented to Barkan. This was March 21, the day police began their sting.

Cara and Kelman were arrested on March 23, after plainclothes police watched as the passport was delivered. According to the police summary, the day began with a male caller refusing to pick up the passport in person and requesting it be delivered to Travcour, a Queen St company specialising in travel documentation. Undercover police made the delivery.

About 1.25pm Travcour received a telephone request from a male caller that the package containing the passport be couriered to the St Paul’s address at which Barkan had rented an apartment earlier in the month.

Undercover police again made the delivery. The apartment manager told them that an ex-tenant (Barkan) had phoned requesting permission for a package to be delivered to the office and asking that he be phoned when it arrived.

A detective noticed a person – whom he later identified as Cara – at a cafe across the road monitoring movements. About 2.35pm the manager was contacted. He confirmed the package had arrived. The caller told him a taxi would pick it up. At 2.38pm a call was made from Cara’s phone to one used by Barkan.

An Alert taxi arrived at 3pm and, watched by Cara, the driver picked up the package. The taxi driver was told to go to a Freemans Bay location.

There Kelman was waiting.

“On seeing plainclothes police, Kelman hid his cellphone in bushes then walked swiftly from his observation area,” a prosecutor told the court. Soon after, Kelman’s phone began to ring. A policeman retrieved it and answered it. It was the taxi driver saying he had arrived.

A former Mossad spy living in New Zealand has said he suspects the agency is behind the scam.

He said New Zealand passports were prized by spy agencies, particularly Israel’s, because they didn’t arouse the suspicion of border officials, particularly in the Arab world which regarded the New Zealand as sympathetic to Palestinians.

If the men were Mossad, he said, it was unlikely to be the first time the spy agency had tried to get New Zealand passports.


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  • Thanks for posting that article, I saw this earlier but got frustrated and side-tracked trying to find the old BB thread on this. Maybe graham or aslyum know where it is.

    Last Update: 02/07/2004 22:09

    2 Israelis admit to unlawfully trying to obtain NZ passport  

    By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

    Two Israeli men admitted in a New Zealand court Friday to trying to unlawfully acquire a New Zealand passport, Australian media reported.

    Uriel Zosha Kelman, 30, and Elisha Cara, 50, pleaded guilty in the Auckland High Court to one charge of participating in an organized crime group by attempting to unlawfully obtain a New Zealand passport, according to Australian Associated Press. They had denied committing criminal offenses after their arrest about four months ago.

    Justice Judith Potter convicted the pair and remanded them in custody for sentencing on July 15. A third man, Zev William Barkan, and “persons unknown” – who have not been located – were also allegedly involved in trying to obtain a passport in the name of a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer, the agency said.

    In April, the New Zealand Herald reported that senior government officials believed that Kelman and Cara, who claimed to be a Sydney-based travel agent, were actually Mossad agents.

    The indictment’s reference to an organized crime group relates to the number of people involved, and not the reported links to Israel’s spy agency, according to AAP.

    Kelman’s attorney, Grant Illingworth, has previously argued that media reports that the Israelis are Mossad agents constitute “a violation of the principle of sub judice, and have undermined the chances for a proper and fair trial.”

    The attorney said at the end of April that Kelman and Cara were not under suspicion for espionage-related offenses. “They are suspected of regular criminal offenses, which they deny; and despite this, and contrary to the law and the norm, a number of newspapers, and the New Zealand Herald in particular, have published irresponsible reports about them supposedly being Mossad spies,” Illingworth said.

  • BB link is:;action=display;threadid=18670

    PM prepares for diplomatic sequel
    NZ Herald


    The end of the court case against two alleged Israeli spies is likely to have a diplomatic sequel.

    Urie Kelman and Eli Cara probably pleaded guilty to the passport charge to limit damage and prevent the Crown producing diplomatically embarrassing proof that the defendants belonged to the Israeli secret service, Mossad, and that it was engaged in criminal acts in New Zealand.

    Prime Minister Helen Clark would make no comment last night. Her spokesman said she would not speak until after the pair were sentenced on July 15.

    After that, there will be “strong and public response”, Helen Clark told the Herald in April.

    The least that the Government could expect is an apology and private assurance from the Israelis that New Zealand passports will never again be sought or used by Mossad agents.

    It is believed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has wanted the Government to take a cautious approach but, at least until now, that advice has not been followed by politicians.

    The Government is also still mindful of the resentment felt by New Zealanders over the Rainbow Warrior affair and the disdain shown to this country by the French.

    Not only did French agents blow up the Greenpeace vessel but their Government welched on an agreement to detain the convicted agents on Hao Atoll instead of in a New Zealand prison.

    The Government is not likely to want to be seen as capitulating again in this way.

  • Alleged Mossad agents in New Zealand jail
    Jul 02 2004 12:16  | Updated July 03 2004 23:40

    Jerusalem Post – The two Israelis who were arrested in New Zealand in April are behind bars after admitting on Friday before an Auckland court to charges of attempting to obtain a false New Zealand passport and participating in an organized crime network to obtain false passports, New Zealand media reported.

    Lawyers for Urie Zoshe Kelman and Eli Cara did not seek bail when the alleged Mossad agents entered guilty pleas on a single charge of participating in an organised crime group in an attempt to unlawfully obtain a New Zealand passport with Zev William Barkan, 37, and a fourth, unknown, person, the New Zealand Herald reported.

    Justice Judith Potter remanded Kelman, 30, and Cara, 50, in custody for sentencing on July 15.

    The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail, the Herald reported.

    According to the reports, another alleged member of this Mossad group, Ze’ev William Barkan, had managed to leave the region, and another suspected member is believed to still be in hiding.

    Israeli authorities categorically denied that the suspects worked for the Mossad, and maintained that the case is a purely criminal matter.

    Nevertheless, New Zealand authorities are reported to be extremely concerned about the issue – especially that passports could be used by foreign spies impersonating tourists.


    No apology from Israel in spy case

    Jul 16, 2004

    Israel said it will do everything it can to restore diplomatic relations with New Zealand but stopped short of apologising after two alleged Mossad agents were jailed after pleading guilty to belonging to an organised criminal group and attempting to fraudulently obtain a New Zealand passport.

    Eli Cara and Urie Kelman, who are widely believed to be Israeli spies, received a six month jail sentence after being caught trying to obtain the false documents using the identity of a wheelchair bound cerebral palsy sufferer.

    But three months after Prime Minister Helen Clark asked for an explanation and an apology, she has not received one.

    The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement.

    “Israel regrets the current state of the traditional and friendly relations between both countries. Israel values its relationship with New Zealand and will do anything it can in order to return those relations to their prior state,” the statement said.

    The spy scandal was widely reported around the world from Canada to Qatar .

    The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Australia is stepping up its investigation into Israeli espionage activities following the New Zealand case.

    The paper said it is unknown if a raid on a house in Turramurra, NSW was related to the hunt for the alleged Mossad ringleader, Zev William Barkan.

    But according to former Mossad chief Danny Yatom, such scandals are no gauge of the agency’s real feats.

    “Mossad is one of the best intelligence agencies in the world,” Yatom said. “Yet even the best agencies are bound to suffer mishaps. Because of the secret nature of intelligence gathering, most… achievements are never made public.”

    Clark said there were very strong reasons to think Cara, 50, and Kelman, 31, were acting on behalf of Israel’s intelligence services. She imposed diplomatic sanctions against Israel and suspended high-level contacts between the two countries.

    In the High Court in Auckland, Kelman covered his face with his hand and sat stooped in the dock with his head down for the entire two hour sentencing. The court heard the charges had caused him great distress. His lawyer, Grant Illingworth QC, said the widely publicised allegations that he is a Mossad agent had never formed part of the crown case.

    The court heard Kelman is a single man who has a maths and physics degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Among the many letters of reference was one from a Rabbi of his local synagogue. But Kelman entered New Zealand on a Canadian passport.

    For nearly an hour, the court was presented with submissions from Cara’s lawyer Stuart Grieve QC, who read out testimonials about his good character. Grieve said there was nothing suspicious about Cara’s 24 visits to New Zealand since 2000. Grieve said the suggestion Cara was an Israeli spy, meant there was a real and ongoing risk to him and his family.

    While both men admitted the charge, of belonging to an organised criminal group and trying to obtain a false New Zealand passport, they claim their involvement was limited.

    Justice Potter said the offending of Cara and Kelman was very serious, and called into question the integrity of the New Zealand passport system. She said it was difficult to know why anyone would want a false New Zealand passport unless it was to be used in a way ancillary to other offending and that offending is likely to be serious or perhaps very serious.

    It is believed this is the first time agents of a foreign spy agency have been brought before New Zealand courts since the French bombers of the Rainbow Warrior were deported in 1985.

    Both Cara and Kelman will be deported from New Zealand immediately when they are released from jail.

    They will be given credit for the two weeks they have already been in custody and should be free in 10 weeks time.

  • NZer allegedly linked to passport case
    Jul 24, 2004

    TVNZ – Police are investigating a fourth man implicated in the Israeli passport fraud scandal.

    Former ambulance medic Tony Resnick is being investigated by police for alleged links to passport fraudsters Uriel Kelman and Eli Cara.

    It is now known Resnick left the country the day after police arrested Kelman and Cara on suspicion of passport fraud.

    Thirty-five-year-old Resnick is a New Zealand citizen but spent at least 13 years in Israel where he served in the military. When he returned to New Zealand in the late ’90s, he worked as a St John ambulance paramedic.

    A former colleague, Dean Crump, describes him as a pleasant man with strong views on Middle East politics. “He had very strong views about the resolution of the conflicts there and he could become quite animated about it,” Crump said.

    One defence expert thinks Resnick’s job as an ambulance worker would have given him access to useful information. Associate professor Jim Veitch from Victoria University in Wellington said this line of work would have given him free access to peoples’ lives and the goings-on in the community.  

    With four men now implicated in the Israeli spy scandal, Veitch said New Zealanders should not be surprised if there are more. “New Zealand has long been known as a benign place. It’s got easy borders and people come in and out and make contact with each other… this has been going on for decades.”

    Prime Minister Helen Clark would not be drawn on these claims and said police were handling the case well.

    Police have reported that they are following a number of lines of enquiries.

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