2 Israelis Admit to Unlawfully Trying to Obtain NZ Passport

Two Israelis accused of trying to obtain a New Zealand passport unlawfully were discovered following suspicions about the authenticity of the applicant's Canadian accent, the New Zealand Herald reported Saturday.

The two men - Uriel Zosha Kelman, 30, and Elisha Cara, 50 - pleaded guilty Friday in an Auckland court to trying to unlawfully acquire a New Zealand passport.

Passport official Ian Tingey telephoned the applicant's parents and asked if their son planned to travel and had applied for a passport.

Tingey discovered the applicant was a tetraplegic who lived in care, was incapable of speaking, and certainly could not travel overseas.

The police were told and they took over the job of issuing the passport, which was eventually given to Kelman. Cara was caught because police saw him monitoring the delivery.

The two pleaded guilty in the Auckland High Court to one charge of participating in an organized crime group by attempting to unlawfully obtain a New Zealand passport, according to Australian Associated Press. They had denied committing criminal offenses after their arrest about four months ago.

Justice Judith Potter convicted the pair and remanded them in custody for sentencing on July 15.

A third man, Zev William Barkan, and "persons unknown" - who have not been located - were also allegedly involved in trying to obtain a passport in the name of the cerebral palsy sufferer, the agency said.

In April, the New Zealand Herald reported that senior government officials believed that Kelman and Cara, who claimed to be a Sydney-based travel agent, were actually Mossad agents.

The indictment's reference to an organized crime group relates to the number of people involved, and not the reported links to Israel's spy agency, according to AAP.

Kelman's attorney, Grant Illingworth, has previously argued that media reports that the Israelis are Mossad agents constitute "a violation of the principle of sub judice, and have undermined the chances for a proper and fair trial."

The attorney said at the end of April that Kelman and Cara were not under suspicion for espionage-related offenses.

"They are suspected of regular criminal offenses, which they deny; and despite this, and contrary to the law and the norm, a number of newspapers, and the New Zealand Herald in particular, have published irresponsible reports about them supposedly being Mossad spies," Illingworth said.