Even the best sleuths do get stuck, quite literally in mud! There were recent news reports that the Israel embassy in Berlin will have to shell out 1,263 Euros (Rs 95,000) for the “help” extended to two Mossad members!
Last December, the car of two Israeli got stuck in Germany. The police, with aid from the locals, pulled out the car, and recently sent the hefty invoice. Their justification: the men shouldn’t have travelled in an “out of bounds” land with arms in their vehicle.
In 1991, a group of Israeli students visiting Kashmir were targeted by Pakistani terrorist group Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence bureau, feared that the youths were Israeli Defence Forces personnel, who were working for India.
ISI engineered the attack which killed one Israeli student, and kidnapped one. The young man was released a week later with some interference from Mossad.
The incident proved catalytic, and India and Israel officially established diplomatic ties in 1992. By now, there were constant whispers that Mossad was working in cahoots with RAW, but the rumour vine wilted at that.
It was much later, in 2008, when Israel’s Ambassador Mark Sofer teased the media with his “not-so-subtle” hints that the picture became clearer. Israel had helped India in turning around the situation in Kargil War (1999). Sofer stated that Israel helped the Indian Army gain an edge over their enemy by providing real-time imagery of Pakistani army positions.
In his interview to Outlook magazine, Sofer stated: “We do have a defence relationship with India, which is no secret. What is secret is what the defence relationship is? And with all due respect, the secret part will remain secret.”
The statement was no less than a political confession, and it threw open the gates of media speculation about the definite presence of Mossad in India.
Three years back, an inadvertent corruption case drawn up by an ex-RAW agent against his superior blew the lid off the covert dwellings and dealing of Mossad. Former RAW official RK Yadav had filed a disproportionate assets case against his senior ex-RAW chief Anand Kumar Verma (retired in 1990). Yadav accused Verma of diverting secret funds, and siphoning off money from RAW missions into his personal accounts while he served as the boss between 1987 and 1990.
Based on Yadav’s allegations, a special CBI sessions court asked the agency to audit Verma’s properties, that included a bungalow in Noida, shops in Archana Shopping Complex, flats in Janakpuri and Feroze Shah Road, farmhouses in Bijwasan, Mehrauli and Sultanpur, a computer factory in Okhla and two flats in Bangalore.
Further digging led to interesting details. Mossad officials were allotted dwelling places in Delhi’s Connaught Place area, in a building named Gauri Sadan, located in Hailey Road. India Today reported that Verma’s two companies served as operational facades for Mossad’s India-based chief. Since India did not have any official diplomatic ties during the late 80s, the operation had to be carried under super secrecy.
In 1988, RAW floated two firms: Piyush Investments and Hector Leasing and Finance Company. The bogus trading houses were headed by senior RAW officials, V Balachandran (retired as RAW special secretary in 1994) and B Raman (retired as additional secretary in 1995).
Apparently, the companies dealt in multiple things: minerals, automobiles, textiles, metals and spare parts. The probes discovered that the two firms never really functioned, but provided a cover the Mossad activities.
The following year, RAW bought two flats in upscale Gauri Sadan, a residential building, for Rs 23 lakh, using the two firms as cover. The apartments housed Mossad’s India chief between 1989 and 1992. The Israeli sleuth held a fake Argentine passport and aided India with intelligence inputs and expertise in various operations.
When confronted by reporters, Verma hinted that his association with the two firms was professional. B Raman, one of the directors of the front companies, cleared the air with his upfront statement: “Sometimes, spy agencies float companies for operational reasons… All I can say is that everything was done with government approval. Files were cleared by the Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi)…”
After the expose, India Today journalists visited Gauri Sadan in 2013, and discovered it that the two flats were still registered with Piyush Investments and Hector Leasing and Finance. In all possibility, Mossad was still functioning from the same premises…