Ben Zygier, the reported Israeli-Australian Mossad agent who is said to have committed suicide in an Israeli jail in December 2010, was tracked down and kidnapped by Israel after he betrayed the Mossad, a Kuwaiti daily claimed Thursday. There was no independent confirmation of the report.
Zygier was a member of a Mossad team that assassinated Hamas weapons importer Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January 2010, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported.
Basing itself on what it said were “well-informed Western sources,” the daily said Zygier subsequently contacted the authorities in Dubai and, in return for their protection, provided them with details of the assassination, including the names of those involved and their photos. More than 20 alleged Mossad operatives were said by Dubai to have been involved in the hit.
Zygier was then given shelter, but Israel succeeded in reaching his hiding place, kidnapping him, and placing him in solitary confinement in a maximum-security jail where even his wardens were unaware of his identity, referring to him only as “Prisoner X,” the report said.
Quoting a “former Mossad commander,” the daily reported that Zygier had carried out a number of secret missions, of which the Mabhouh assassination was the last, before “switching to the other side.”
An Australia news website reported on Thursday that, according to local security officials, Zygier was arrested by Israeli authorities because he may have been about to reveal Mossad secrets to Australian authorities or media.
“[Zygier] may well have been about to blow the whistle, but he never got the chance,” an Australian security official with knowledge of the case told Fairfax Media.
Top Israeli defense attorney Avigdor Feldman, who on Thursday said he met with Zygier in his cell two days before his death on December 15, 2010, said the alleged operative was up against “serious” charges, and “had been told that he faced very lengthy imprisonment, and would be ostracized by his family, and that impacts on the soul of a man.” Two days later, Feldman said, he was told in a phone call that Zygier had committed suicide.
Australian intelligence began an investigation into Zygier and two other Australians at least six months before the January 19 assassination of Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel room, on suspicion that they were using their Australian passports to spy for Israel, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Thursday.
The Dubai authorities had claimed in 2010 that three men carrying Australian passports were involved in Mabhouh’s assassination, but the Australian daily said there was “no suggestion” that the three Australians implicated by Dubai were connected to Zygier or the other two Australians under investigation.
The report in Al-Jarida, which periodically leaks highly sensitive security reports relating to Israel, was not confirmed by any other source.
Australian journalist Jason Koutsoukis, who reported a month after Mahbouh was killed on three Australians allegedly involved in espionage for Israel, contacted Zygier after an anonymous source informed him about Zygier’s involvement in a Mossad front company selling goods to Iran.
Following the Mahbouh assassination, Koutsoukis called Zygier and confronted him with information he had, but Zygier “denied everything,” including any involvement in the Mabhouh affair. He also denied having traveled in the Arab world on an Australian passport.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.