Images from security camera
Photo: Reuters
Members of Dubai hit team
Photo: Reuters
Mabhouh. Assassinated in Dubai
Photo: AFP

UK: Passport defrauding a very serious issue

London, Dublin express anger over use of stolen identities by assassins of senior Hamas member in Dubai, pointing finger at Jewish state. Israeli ambassadors to Britain, Ireland summoned by countries' foreign ministers for clarifications

The assassination of senior Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is turning into international diplomatic affair. Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland have been summoned by the countries' foreign ministries to explain the use of fake passports in Dubai. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it was unaware of such demands.


The British Foreign Office was expected to summon Israeli Ambassador to London Ron Prosor on Thursday to "share information" about the assassins' use of identities stolen from six British citizens living in Israel, the Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday evening.


Prosor was summoned to a meeting with Under-Secretary a Peter Ricketts. A spokesman for the British Embassy in Tel Aviv clarified that the ambassador would not be reprimanded. As of Thursday, the spokesman said, the embassy will start contacting the Israeli citizens whose identities were stolen and offer them assistance.


“The defrauding of British passports is a very serious issue," the British Foreign Office said in a statement. "The Government will continue to take all the action that is necessary to protect British Nationals from identity-fraud. The Government is involved in a number of strands of ongoing activity in relation to this specific case.


"First, we are providing support to the British Nationals who have been affected by this fraudulent activity. The British Embassy in Tel Aviv is contacting the affected British Nationals, and stands ready to provide them with the support that they need; second, as the prime minister has said, we need to ensure a full investigation is carried out into the fraudulent use of these passports. The Serious Organised Crime Agency will lead this investigation, in close co-operation with the Emirati authorities; and third, given the links to Israel of a number the British Nationals affected, there will be a meeting between the FCO permanent under secretary and the Israeli ambassador tomorrow."


A diplomatic source in Dublin told Ynet that the Israeli ambassador in the Irish capital would also be summoned for an inquiry. Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin announced that further information had been received from the authorities in the United Arab Emirates concerning reports of the use of fake Irish passports in Dubai. He said the new information confirms that the passports used were fraudulent.


"Genuine Irish passport numbers were used. These numbers correspond to actual numbers on three legitimate Irish passports. However, the identities of the persons recorded on the forged passports do not correspond to those recorded on the valid passports carrying the same numbers."


Austria launches investigation as well

The Irish Foreign Ministry is attempting to locate the Irish citizens to whom these passports belong to or belonged to in the past. Minister Martin asked the media to respect their privacy.


The minister said he regarded any activity which would jeopardize the integrity of the Irish passport as extremely serious.


"Our passport is widely regarded and respected throughout the world as being of the highest quality. We have invested very heavily in extra security features so that our citizens can travel in safety. Actions, which endanger our well earned reputation in this area, have the potential to affect the security of all our citizens travelling overseas. I am determined to maintain the good name of Irish passports. The Department is liaising closely with the UAE authorities on the matter.”


The Irish Foreign Ministry said it would be in contact, through its embassies in London, Paris and Berlin, with the authorities in these countries with a view to working with them in this investigation.


Israel appears to be in trouble in Austria as well. The Interior Ministry in Vienna said it had launched an investigation into the suspected use of at least seven mobile phones with pre-paid Austrian chips by Mabhouh's killers.


The Dubai police investigation revealed that the cell members did not contact each other directly during their stay in the country, and didn't do so before their arrival and after leaving as well. However, they spoke to each other by dialing to a communications center in Austria, which was referred to as "the assassins' headquarters" by the Dubai police.


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged a "full investigation" Wednesday into how fake British passports were linked to Hamas chief's killers, amid calls here for Israel to explain its role.


"We are looking at this at this very moment," he told London's LBC radio. "We have got to carry out a full investigation into this. The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care," he told London's LBC Radio.


"The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how it happened and why it happened and it is necessary for us to accumulate that evidence before we can make statements."


Aviel Magnezi and AFP contributed to this report


פרסום ראשון: 02.17.10, 21:29
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