Thursday 22 June 2017

Israelis asked to visit passport plant here before Dubai killing

Sam Smyth

ISRAELI officials asked to inspect the Dublin plant where security-enhanced passports are made -- just a month before a Middle East assassination by agents using forged Irish documents.

A serious diplomatic incident was looming last night after a top-level report concluded that an Israeli intelligence agency forged the Irish passports used in the murder of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January.

The Department of Foreign Affairs believes that an Israeli state agency provided the eight forged Irish passports used by agents involved in the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

The sensational charges against the Israelis are understood to be detailed in a report submitted earlier this week by the Irish Passport Service to Minister Micheal Martin.

However, it is also understood that none of the findings could be proven beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Up to 27 people were suspected of involvement in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel on January 19. Three fraudulent Australian passports, four French, 12 British, one German and eight Irish passports were used in the killing.

The genuine Irish passports -- whose numbers had been used in the forged passports -- had been though frontiers in Europe and the United States, but not in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, it emerged last night that the Israeli Foreign Service approached the Department of Foreign Affairs in the run-up to Christmas to say it was very impressed by the sophistication of the new Irish passports and their in-built biometric components.

The Israelis asked if they could send a small team to examine the DFA's manufacturing plant in Balbriggan, Co Dublin, where a new biometric security feature was built into the passports.

The request was refused.

"After the killing in Dubai, one of the bosses here said whoever refused the Israelis getting into the passport plant should be promoted," a source within the department said yesterday.

A spokesman for Micheal Martin declined to comment.

However, a senior and reliable source in the department said: "Our conclusion is much the same as that of the British. We're not looking for anybody else."

Sanctions

An accusation that a friendly nation had been involved in an assassination after forging Irish passports is certain to ratchet up diplomatic tension and prompt demands for sanctions against Israel.

Britain expelled a diplomat after an investigation into the use of fake British passports in the Dubai murder.

The gardai have not yet completed their inquiry. It is understood that no officers have visited Dubai in the course of their investigation.

Ciaran Madden, the Irish ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, has been leading the investigation for the department in Dubai.

Fine Gael's foreign affairs spokesman Billy Timmins said: "I am calling on the minister to publish the report's findings, so there can be transparency in regard to what exactly happened and what steps need to be taken to prevent a re-occurrence of such a serious lapse."

In the Dail on Thursday, Mr Martin said two of the eight forged Irish passports were those of children.

The minister said he would share the content of the passport service's report with the opposition spokespersons, apart from some detail which could compromise passport security.

Irish Independent

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