A New Zealander claiming to the son of a former Syrian president, says he knows the whereabouts of the executed Israeli spy's remains, according to a report on New Zealand news service Newshub on Sunday.
Eli Cohen was an Egyptian-born Israeli spy best known for his espionage work in the 1960s in Syria, where it was alleged he developed close relationships with the Syrian political and military hierarchy and became the chief adviser to the country's defense minister. He was eventually exposed and captured by Syrian Intelligence in 1965, sentenced to death and hung at Damascus' main square.
Khalid al-Hafidh, a Syrian migrant living in Auckland, claims to be the son Amin al-Hafiz, a Syrian leader who presided over the country during Cohen's execution and his subsequent secret burial.
"I am the son of the only person on this planet who knows where the remains are buried," he told Newshub in an interview.
The alleged son says the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) contacted him two years ago believing he has clues to the secret location, which his father had apparently taken to the grave.
Al-Hafidh claims he was in negotiations with the Mossad to reveal the information, but wanted $1million for his services which the intelligence agency refused to pay.
"I was cooperating with the New Zealand Secret Intelligence Service, in cooperation with the Mossad, in order to help find the remains of the Israeli spy Eli Cohen," he said.
Cohen's widow, Nadia, said that following the report she appealed directly to Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, demanding answers as to why the deal did not go through.
"I want to ask wasn't Eli worth the price? Were they not interested? I want him (Yossi Cohen) to clarify what hapepned," said the 84-year-old.
In an interview with Newshub, Al-Hafidh now says he is willing to reveal the information without the financial reward, as long as the Cohen's relatives finally have their peace.
Earlier communication between the alleged son and the intelligence agency reveals Al-Hafidh was adamant on receiving the money.
Text messages sent from an NZSIS agent called "Carl" appear to show him brokering a deal.
"I have passed your response to our partners and am waiting for a reply," said the agent.
According to the report, Mossad agents were on their way to Auckland, with one text saying: "Wait for our partners to arrive before making a decision."
He says the spies wanted him to try and talk to his father's close friends or provide insight.
Al-Hafidh wanted a million dollars for his services, texting: "1M for the minimum for kick start. Thanks". The agent replied: "Will do, thanks K".
Al-Hafidh then sent his bank details, but the deal went cold.
"It was all for good intentions. It went wrong, really wrong," he said.
Confused, he took the case to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, the official responsible for supervising New Zealand's two main intelligence agencies, telling him he could have solved the 53-year-old mystery.
"It works with a range of international intelligence agencies,'' the NZSIS said in response.
"This cooperation brings significant benefits to New Zealand's national security, we help them (Mossad), and they help us," they added.
They further said that the use of the term "partner" is generic and is applied to all those agencies with which we have contact. It says this "does not imply any special relationship or endorsement".
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the Israeli ambassador, Itzhak Gerberg, would not comment on the report.
First published: 16:09 , 11.24.19