x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Ireland to expel Israeli diplomat over forged passports used in al Mabouh killing

Investigations by Irish police and passport service conclude that Israel was responsible for forging the passports.

DUBAI // Ireland is to expel an Israeli diplomat after an investigation into forged passports used for the assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh, a Hamas military leader, in a Dubai hotel in January. The decision came after two separate reports were issued by the country's police and passport service on the forged passports used in the killing. Micheál Martin, the Irish minister for foreign affairs, said in a statement that he had briefed the government on the outcome of the investigations, which concluded that Israel was responsible for forging the passports.

He said the reports lead "to the inescapable conclusion that an Israeli government agency was responsible for the misuse and, most likely, the manufacture of the forged Irish passports associated with the murder of Mr Mabhouh". He said the level of sophistication required to make the forged passports pointed to a foreign state agency, "or a very well-resourced criminal organisation with access to details of significant numbers of Irish passports".

"While our own investigations have discovered no additional evidence linking the Irish passports to Israel, the fact that the forged Irish passports were used by members of the same group who carried the forged British and Australian passports leads us to the inescapable conclusion that an Israeli government agency was responsible." Mr Martin said the Irish case was different to the UK and Australian cases, which involved identity theft in relation to nationals of both countries.

"Those responsible for the forgery of the Irish passports sought to replicate potential valid Irish passport information, with six of the eight fake passports using the numbers of existing Irish passport holders, while the two remaining passports used numbers conforming to Irish passport number formats, although valid passports carrying these numbers were never actually issued." Dubai Police have identified 27 suspects in the case, of whom eight entered the UAE on Irish passports.

They entered the country in separate teams, with a core group suspected to be responsible for the killing itself. Police tracked them through CCTV footage, immigration records, DNA analysis, witness interviews and hotel, phone, transport and credit-card records. Britain expelled Mossad's representative at the Israeli embassy in London in March and is reportedly blocking the official's return until Israel gives a formal guarantee that its passports will not be misused in future.

Australia expelled an Israeli diplomat in May, saying Israel was behind the forging of Australian passports linked to the murder. @Email:eharnan@thenational.ae