By TONY STICKLEY, BRIDGET CARTER and EUGENE BINGHAM
EXCLUSIVE - A quadriplegic, wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer was the victim of an alleged plot by Israelis looking to secure a New Zealand passport.
The clandestine plan unravelled in the Auckland District Court yesterday when two men appeared in a case fast-tracked in highly unusual circumstances.
Papers given to Judge Chris Field showed how suspicious Internal Affairs staff called in police who set a trap.
Defence lawyers Grant Illingworth, QC, and Nigel Faigan, representing Eli Cara and Uriel Zoshe Kelman, consented for the case to proceed to trial although they did not concede there was a prima facie case.
According to the police, a third Israeli man, Zev William Barkan, tried to get the passport in the name of the New Zealander.
In unsigned hand-up depositions, a Lynfield GP, Howard Way, told the court that he was visited by a man using the name of the cerebral palsy sufferer. He was suffering from a minor ailment.
At the end of the consultation the man, said to be Barkan, asked him to witness his passport application, which he did.
He said he needed a passport urgently to go to Australia to get married. He "was calm and gave me no reason not to believe him. I filled out the form".
The alleged ruse in the doctor's surgery was all part of the plot to assume a new identity. A post box and a voicemail phone service were also set up in the name of the victim, whose birth certificate was used to lodge the passport application.
When Internal Affairs staff noticed an irregularity, they rang the applicant.
Ian Tingey, an investigations officer with Internal Affairs, said that the applicant had a Canadian or American accent. "When I quizzed him on his accent his explanantion to me was he had not travelled or held a New Zealand passport before but had spent a lot of time in New Zealand with Canadian friends and family."
The officer said that he spoke to the father of the person named in the application who said his son was wheelchair bound and in residential care. Police were tipped off and a covert operation was set up.
According to the police allegations, Barkan left the country and the passport was to be picked up by one of the other two.
On March 23 a man contacted the department but refused to pick up the passport personally. He wanted it sent to Auckland company Travcour, which specialises in obtaining visas and travel documents.
Later that day a man contacted Travcour and told them to courier the passport to an apartment building in St Paul St, Auckland. According to the summary, as the package was delivered to the building, Cara was allegedly keeping watch but did not see the police arrive.
The manager of the apartments told police he had received a call from an ex-tenant who asked if a package could be delivered there. He was told that a taxi would be sent to pick it up.
When the taxi arrived, Cara was sitting in a nearby cafe, allegedly paying close attention to the taxi driver as he parked.
Cara was himself under surveillance by the police. "As the taxi driver got out of his vehicle and approached the apartment entrance, the defendant Cara got up from his position at the cafe and directly shadowed the taxi driver into the apartments," the police summary alleges.
The taxi driver had been told to take the package and deliver it to a person with the cerebral palsy victim's Christian name at an address in Freemans Bay.
As the taxi driver picked up the package from the counter, Cara was standing behind him, watching, the police claim.
When Cara went to follow, he was stopped by the police. An officer went with the taxi driver to Freemans Bay.
Kelman was allegedly hiding waiting to pick up the package. He walked off quickly and allegedly hid his cellphone in bushes but he too was detained by the police.
According to the police summary neither Cara nor Kelman had an explanation for why they were involved in wanting to obtain the New Zealand passport, nor did they say what their involvement was.
They claimed that they did not know each other, but the police say their inquiries contradict this claim.
Further evidence to the court gave details of their time in New Zealand. Michael Zandvoort, of the North Shore, said Kelman, whom he knew as John, told him he had a contract in Europe and would be away for two months, "something to do with West European embassies".
"John never told me specifics about the company he worked for but it was something to do with security and detecting bugs."
New Zealand/Israel relations
* Israel recently closed its embassy in Wellington but has one in Canberra.
* New Zealand has a consulate in Tel Aviv.
* Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff visited Israel last May but caused a diplomatic incident by also meeting Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
* Visitor visa waivers are in force and a working holiday scheme planned.
* But New Zealanders are warned against all travel to Israel because of the high risk of terrorism.
* New Zealand sent about $12.5 million of exports to Israel in 2002.
* It received around $60.1 million of imports, including fertilisers, plastic and soap.
* Israel opened a trade office in Auckland in 1994 and a New Zealand and Israel Trade Association was set up that year.
By TONY STICKLEY, BRIDGET CARTER and EUGENE BINGHAM