Israeli diplomat expelled in fake passports row
By Sam Marsden
March 23 2010
Foreign Secretary David Miliband said an investigation had discovered “compelling” evidence that Tel Aviv’s secret service was responsible for cloning the ID documents.
He told MPs it was “intolerable” for a foreign country to behave in such a way, and the fact that Israel was a close ally added “insult to injury”.
“Given that this was a very sophisticated operation, in which high-quality forgeries were made, the Government judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service.
“Taking this together with other inquiries, and the link with Israel established by Soca (the Serious and Organised Crime Agency), we have concluded that there are compelling reasons to believe that Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports.
“The Government takes this matter extremely seriously. Such misuse of British passports is intolerable.”
He added: “I have asked that a member of the embassy of Israel be withdrawn, and this is taking place.”
Mr Miliband said the misuse of passports presented a “hazard for the safety of British nationals in the region”.
“It also represents a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom,” he said. “The fact that this was done by a country which is a friend, with significant diplomatic, cultural, business and personal ties to the UK, only adds insult to injury.
“No country or government could stand by in such a situation.”
Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the founder of Hamas’s military wing, was assassinated in his luxury hotel room in Dubai on January 19 by a team of killers wearing fake beards, wigs and other disguises.
Dubai officials said they were “99% certain” that Mossad agents were behind the murder but Israel has refused to confirm or deny the link.
At the time Mr Miliband branded the abuse of British passports “outrageous” and demanded that Tel Aviv co-operate fully with the UK’s investigation.
Israel’s ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, was summoned to the Foreign Office last month to discuss the situation, but he flatly denied there was any “additional information” to give.
Investigators from Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) looked into the use of cloned passports of innocent British citizens in the attack.
Mr Miliband said 11 of the 12 had now been given biometric passports which would be harder to counterfeit.
He also said the Foreign Office’s travel advice for Israel would be amended to highlight the risk of papers being cloned, and how it can be minimised.
Other members of the hit squad travelled on fake Irish, French and Australian travel documents.
Gordon Brown’s spokesman told reporters: “The Prime Minister was consulted on this decision and supports it.”
The spokesman said the diplomat had technically been “asked to withdraw” from the UK, rather than expelled, and was being given two weeks to leave the country.
Mr Miliband met Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman yesterday and handed him a letter seeking formal assurance that in future Israel will never be party to the misuse of British passports, said the spokesman.
Also yesterday, the head of the UK diplomatic service, Sir Peter Ricketts, met Israeli Ambassador to London Ron Prosor.
UK expels Israeli diplomat over Dubai passports
By Adrian Croft
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Tuesday it was expelling an Israeli diplomat from London after concluding that Israel had forged British passports used by the suspected killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai.”I’ve asked that a member of the Embassy of Israel be withdrawn from the UK as a result of this affair and this is taking place,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband told parliament.
Miliband said there were “compelling reasons” to believe Israel was responsible for the misuse of British passports in the case and said he had sought assurances from Israel that it would not misuse them again.
“Such misuse of British passports is intolerable … It also represents a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom,” he said.
Israel has neither confirmed nor denied a role in the January killing of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a military commander from the Palestinian organization Hamas, in a Dubai hotel room.
Dubai authorities have given names for 27 alleged members of the team that tracked and killed the Palestinian, and said they used fraudulent British, Irish, French, German and Australian passports to enter and depart from Dubai.
Dubai’s police chief says he is almost certain Israeli agents were involved and has accused the intelligence agency Mossad of insulting Dubai.
After an investigation by a specialized police unit, Miliband said Britain had concluded “there are compelling reasons to believe Israel was responsible for the misuse” of the 12 British passports involved.
“Given that this was a very sophisticated operation in which high-quality forgeries were made, the government judges it is highly likely the forgeries were made by a state intelligence service,” he said.
Miliband did not accuse Israel of being responsible for the killing.
Israeli Ambassador to London Ron Prosor said he was disappointed by the British decision.
“It is our clear intention to strengthen the firm foundation of our relationship which is both vital and beneficiary to both our countries,” he told reporters.
Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat in 1988 in an espionage row. The man, Arie Regev, was described at the time by informed British sources as a Mossad agent.
Relations between Britain and Israel have been strained recently by a number of issues, including the threat of arrest for alleged war crimes faced by senior Israeli officials visiting Britain.
The latest spat comes at a time of friction between Israel and its key ally, the United States, since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government announced plans to build 1,600 homes for Jews near East Jerusalem.
(Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon, Kylie Maclellan, Keith Weir and Tim Castle in London and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Ralph Boulton)