Prime Minister John Key today said the unusual circumstances surrounding a group of Israeli nationals caught up in February’s earthquake in Christchurch were fully investigated and no evidence was found of a link between the group and Israeli intelligence.
Mr Key revealed the investigation following media reports questioning the activities of a group of Israeli nationals in New Zealand at the time of the earthquake.
“The Government takes the security of New Zealand and New Zealanders very seriously. That’s why the relevant agencies conducted a thorough investigation.
“The unusual circumstances which triggered the investigation was the rapid departure from the country of the three surviving members of the group of Israelis in question.
“Security agencies conducted the investigation and found no evidence that the people were anything other than backpackers,” Mr Key said.
Mr Key also moved to correct points raised in the media concerning the number of passports that were found with a man who died in the earthquake. Mr Key said his advice was that the man was found with only one passport, of European origin. Media reports that he was found with five are incorrect. The other three people who had been in the van took their own passports with them when they left the country, and handed over the deceased man’s Israeli passport to Israeli representatives before departing.
“None of the passports were New Zealand passports,” Mr Key said.
Mr Key said he has been assured by Police that there has been no unauthorised access to the Police computer system.
Mr Key also confirmed he spoke once with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the days following the earthquake. Many other leaders also called to express their condolences and to offer assistance to New Zealand. It took several attempts by Israeli representatives to set up the phone call, as is commonly the case with such calls in the circumstances of a major natural disaster.
“The investigations that have been undertaken have been thorough and have found no evidence of a link between the group and Israeli intelligence,” Mr Key said.
“The Government takes the security of our country very seriously.