The Israeli spy who killed himself in jail in 2010 was arrested after passing information about Mossad operations and methods to Australia’s intelligence agency, an Australian TV channel reported Monday.
According to the report by ABC, which first broke the story of Melbourne native Ben Zygier last week, the Mossad agent revealed information to officers from Australia’s ASIO internal intelligence agency, including on a major upcoming operation in Italy.
Zygier, known as “Prisoner X” until last week, was secretly arrested in 2010 and hanged himself several months later, despite being held in an ultra-secure cell with 24-hour surveillance.
Israel, which has kept a tight lid on the case, has only admitted that a foreign national was arrested and killed himself in prison. It has refused to reveal why Zygier was arrested. Official bodies in both Israel and Australia have said they will probe the affair.
Zygier was said to have run a Mossad front company from Italy selling electronic equipment to a number of Arab and Muslim countries, including Iran, according to the ABC report.
The station claimed that Zygier met with ASIO officials on one of his several trips to Melbourne, where he studied for an MBA at Monash University, though it was not clear who contacted whom.
He was arrested after Mossad officials feared he had opened up about the secretive spy agency’s methods and specifically about an operation in Italy that had been several years in the planning, ABC reported.
There have also been reports that Australia’s intelligence community was tracking Zygier. The country’s Fairfax Media reported last week that Zygier was jailed by Israel after being about to divulge secrets about the Mossad to Australian authorities or the media.
Australia’s security agencies were “deeply involved” in watching Zygier, an Israeli official told The Australian newspaper on Sunday.
In Australia, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has ordered a probe into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s dealings with Zygier, asking Israel to cooperate in the investigation. On Monday, Australia’s attorney general said an inquest into the country’s spy agencies was not necessary.
Also on Sunday, a Knesset subcommittee said it would look into the affair, rebuffing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier warned that overexposure of Israel’s secret services could harm national security.