x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Diplomatic repercussions over forged passports used in Hamas leader's killing continue

The probe into fake passports goes on as the Australian, British, French, German and Irish embassies continue to assist Dubai Police.

Five months after the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh, the Western governments whose forged passports were used by the killers continue to slowly gather and evaluate evidence in the case. The Australian, British, French, German and Irish embassies continue to assist Dubai Police with their inquiries, but their governments' focus is on the misuse of their own nations' travel documents - a process that may result in diplomatic expulsions but which may not necessarily help to bring the killers to light.

The arrest of "Uri Brodsky", or someone using that name, on the Polish border last week in connection with forged German passports, is the first arrest in the case. However, the big picture is that investigations by all governments involved show no signs of conclusion. On Tuesday, the Irish authorities expelled a diplomat after launching two investigations into the case. The first, by its Passport Office into the how the passports were forged, has come to an end with "all questions answered", but the second investigation by Irish police is not yet over, said a government spokesman.

Philip Grant, a spokesman for the Irish department of foreign affairs in Dublin, said: "The police report is an interim report and there are still efforts to find some of those involved. We are liaising with Dubai police through the embassy." The summary of the findings in both investigations is expected to be released soon. Meanwhile, British authorities, who have also expelled a diplomat, declined to comment on when their investigation may conclude.

The Serious Organised Crime Agencypresented a "substantial" report to the UK government, but continues to investigate the fraudulent use of British passports. A spokesman for the agency said: "These things have their own time frame. There's not really any way of determining when it will end. We are investigating in support of the Dubai authorities." Israel has asked to replace its expelled official but so far the two countries seem to be at loggerheads.

A UK foreign office spokeswoman said: "The Foreign Secretary has asked for specific assurances from Israel, which would clearly be a positive step towards rebuilding that trust. Any Israeli request for the diplomat to be replaced would be considered against the context of these UK requests." On March 23, French judicial authorities announced the start of an investigation into "the forgery, misuse and possession of fraudulent administrative documents".

No other details were offered regarding the status of the investigation or whether any diplomats would be expelled. lmorris@thenational.ae