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ISRAEL: Journalist describes strange twists of 'German' suspect in Dubai hit

February 22, 2010 |  7:42 am

In Israel, much has been said and much more not disclosed about the fake European passports used by the assassins in Dubai.

On Monday, Ronen Bergman, an Israeli journalist specializing in intelligence issues, shed some light on the one passport that has so far been found to be genuinely issued, a German passport allegedly used by one of the suspected assassins. Part of the details had previously been published in Der Spiegel.

In an interview to Army Radio on Monday morning, Bergman says this is how it went:

A man walked in to the interior ministry in Cologne, Germany on June 16, 2009, and claimed that he was Michael Bodenheimer, an Israeli citizen, descended of a German family that had been persecuted by the Nazis.

He applied for German citizenship, saying he wished to leave Israel and emigrate to Germany. He presented documents, including his parents' German marriage certificate, said he lived in the community of Liman and also gave an address in Herzliya.

The documents must have been convincingly authentic, and two days later, in a model of bureaucratic efficiency that seems atypical (even for Germany), the passport had been issued.

The photograph on the passport is the one now in the papers as one of the assassins, but it is most definitely not that of the Michael Bodenheimer who does live somewhere else in Israel.

The Israeli one is a yeshiva master, an ultraorthodox Jew living in Bnei Brak. His parents were, in fact, born in Frankfurt, Germany, but that's where the similarity ends. He has Israeli citizenship and evidently American too, but not German.

The new Bodenheimer gave an address in Herzliya. Bergman said the German authorities didn't check it out. But had they done so, they would have found that he had an apparent shell company in his name with offices in Herzliya.

"Michael Bodenheimer Ltd." belonged to a group of offices opened by a different company called "Top Office" located on the same floor.

Top Office, says Bergman, is apparently a company that provides individuals and small businesses with an office and secretary at a respectable location.

Bergman said he paid the business address a visit on Friday night, together with the Der Spiegel correspondent in Israel, he told the radio.

He took a picture of the sign saying "Michael Bodenheimer Ltd," and called the number for Top Office. An American-accented woman answered, sounded very surprised and hung up after saying she didn't work on the Sabbath.

By Sunday morning, says Bergman, both companies were gone. The signs had been removed.

And the guard -- the same one from Friday night -- was awfully jittery and tried to shoo them away.

Bergman said clearly someone had given him instructions.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said to Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin in Brussels today that no report links Israel to the incident. He added that should alternate information, beyond media reports, emerge, then Israel would respond, says the foreign ministry.

-- Batsheva Sobelman in Jerusalem

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