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Report: NZ quake exposes possible Israeli spy ring

An excavator works this month on clearing rubble in downtown Christchurch, New Zealand.
An excavator works this month on clearing rubble in downtown Christchurch, New Zealand.Martin Hunter / AP
/ Source:

One of the victims of the February earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand was suspected to have been an Israeli spy, according to a report in The Southland Times.

The man, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, 24, was carrying five passports with him at the time of his death, according to the Times. The newspaper's reports centered around a possible breach of New Zealand's national police computers. The Times said  police and the nation's Security Intelligence Service were investigating

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, who was in Los Angeles Tuesday, initially declined to comment on the report, but later confirmed that New Zealand police and security intelligence officials investigated the allegations, reported .

Key said no link could be found between the group of Israelis and the Mossad .

Mizrahi was one of three Israelis who died in the Feb. 22 earthquake, according to the Israeli media outlet Haaretz. Around 120 Israelis were living in the area around Christchurch at the time of the 6.3 magnitude quake, which destroyed most of the central business district in the southern city of Christchurch.

Mizrahi and three other people were in a van that was crushed by a falling pillar. Mizrahi was killed, but the others were able to extricate themselves, the Times said.

Mizrahi's three companions, one man and two women, photographed the crushed van and rendezvoused at a city square that Israeli officials had designated an "emergency meeting point," then were able to travel back to Israel within 12 hours, The Southland Times said.

New Zealand authorities later confronted an "unaccredited Israeli search and rescue squad" and removed it from the sealed-off area in the city, the Times said. This squad was one of two private search parties brought from Israel to New Zealand, without prior coordination with local authorities in New Zealand, Haaretz reported.

Israel's ambassador to the South Pacific region, Shemi Tzur said the spy reports were "science fiction," The Southland Times said.

New Zealand police say they are confident their computer system is secure.,

Adding to the intrigue is a comment posted on the website of Pravda, a Russian newspaper. The comment said the earthquake disrupted an Israeli spy base in Christchurch.