David Miliband said a police investigation found 'compelling reasons'
to believe Israel was responsibile for the copying of British passports
Police investigation finds Israel forged documents used by Dubai hit squad in killing of Hamas leader
Julian Borger, diplomatic editor
Tuesday 23 March 2010
Britain expelled a senior Mossad official at the Israeli embassy
today after directly accusing Israel of forging British passports used
by a hit squad in Dubai.
The blunt allegation, coupled with parallel investigations by other European countries into possible transgressions by the Mossad, seemed certain to deepen Israel's isolation at a critical moment. It coincided with a visit by Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, to Washington aimed at soothing US anger over Jewish settlement building in Jerusalem.
David Miliband, the foreign secretary, laid out the case against Israel in parliament, saying a police investigation found "compelling reasons" to believe Israel was responsible for the copying of British passports, which were used by the killers of a Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. He said the documents "were copied from genuine British passports when handed over for inspection to individuals linked to Israel, either in Israel or in other countries".
The name of the official was not published. British officials said the
diplomat had been asked to leave because of their position at the
embassy and was not being accused of direct involvement in the
falsification of British passports. The Guardian understands the
official is a senior Mossad agent.
"They'd handed over their passports to officials': Julian Borger on
Britain expelling Israeli diplomat over forged passports plot
Tonight the Foreign Office warned British travellers to try to
avoid entrusting their passports to Israeli officials.British
sources said there was evidence that the 12 British victims of stolen
identity had had their passports temporarily taken away either by
Israeli immigration officers or other officials. Clones of those
passports were subsequently used by some of the large team sent to kill Mabhouh.
"They found no link to any other country," Miliband said.
Without mentioning the Mossad by name, he added that "the government
judges it is highly likely that the forgeries were made by a state
intelligence service".He said British investigators had interviewed all the passport holders affected, who hold dual British-Israeli citizenship, and "found no evidence to suggest any of those individuals were anything other than innocent victims of identify theft".
British officials stressed that the findings by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) were focused on the abuse of British documents rather than the assassination in January, which they stressed was a matter for the United Arab Emirates, and they said that the evidence uncovered so far was circumstantial. However, the government decided it was strong enough to take action.Police in Dubai have already said they are "99% certain" the Mossad was behind Mabhouh's killing, and Miliband's remarks represented the first official endorsement of that view by a western government. Ireland, France and Germany are all investigating use of their passports.
Miliband said that he had handed his counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, a letter seeking assurances that Israel would never again "misuse" British passports. Israel gave similar assurances following an incident in 1986.
The allegations and retaliatory measures taken by Britain seemed certain to weaken Netanyahu's hand as he met Barack Obama and
Congress to fend off US anger at Israel's settlement-building. British
officials said the timing of the foreign secretary's statement to the
House of Commons was coincidental, and dictated by the completion of the Soca enquiry, not by global politics.
"Such misuse of British passports is intolerable," Miliband said. "It presents a hazard for the safety of British nationals in the region. It also represents a profound disregard for the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. 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.
"The Israeli response was also uncertain. Miliband said yesterday that there was no justification for Israeli retaliation, and after Miliband's statement to parliament, the Israeli ambassador, Ron
Prosor, said: "It is now our intention to strengthen the firm foundations of our relationship, which is vital for both our countries."
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