20 September 2003. Thanks to W.
DEA 2002 report on Israeli art students selling art in the US, suspected of being spies:
Posting Note: This article was pulled by the Ottawa Sun for unknown reasons within hours of posting. It is reprinted here for fair use purposes. © 2003, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved.
September 19, 2003
By JOHN STEINBACHS and ANDREW SEYMOUR
NINE Israeli nationals -- who[m] CSIS suspects are possible foreign agents -- were arrested by Immigration and Ottawa police tactical officers last Friday, blocks from Parliament Hill.
The nine have all been charged by Immigration for working in Canada illegally. All are in their 20s and were apparently selling art in Ottawa. The arrests follow similar takedowns of Israelis in Toronto and Calgary over the past few weeks.
An Ottawa police source said police were told members of the group were possible agents from Mossad, Israel's spy agency, but given no further information by CSIS.
CSIS declined to comment yesterday.
All nine have since been released and are staying in several rooms at a Lisgar St. apartment-hotel.
Citizenship and Immigration spokesman Rejean Cantlon confirmed that nine Israelis were arrested last Friday for working in Canada without a permit. Immigration hearings were held Wednesday and nine exclusion orders were issued.
Ienav Sofer, Amit Yedudai, Rani Rahuhim Katsov, Roy Laniado, Shulamit Gorelik and Anatoly Belnik received exclusion orders for two years for working without authorization and misrepresentation. Koby Cole, Sharon Moskovitz and Yafit Avram were issued exclusion orders for one year.
All will be deported as soon as paperwork is ready, likely within the next few weeks, Cantlon said.
They were arrested with the help of tactical and patrol officers Friday between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
No weapons were found in their rooms.
Yesterday, eight were found walking down Lisgar St., but offered no comment when asked if they were Israeli art students.
This is not the first time students selling art in Ottawa have caused concern with law enforcement. In 2001, Centrepointe residents complained of foreign students selling paintings in their neighourhood that turned out to be fakes.
The story of Israeli art students peddling paintings in foreign countries has been reported in the media and on the Internet in the past.
U.S. reports have alleged that groups of students had been trying to sell art in federal government buildings, prompting concerns about intelligence gathering, but no proof has ever been found linking the art peddlers with espionage.
"I keep seeing these things and looking into them, I really don't know how credible they are," said former CSIS chief of strategic planning David Harris. "Certainly it would be extremely surprising if such an outfit would repeat a (technique) in that sort of way."
Israeli Embassy spokesman Ben Forer said the matter is being treated very seriously.
"These are illegal workers ... we're outraged by this," he said. "We expect Israeli citizens that would like to work in Canada to equip themselves with the appropriate work permits before they come to Canada."
Forer laughed when asked if the arrests had anything to do with terrorism or if the nine are agents of Mossad -- whose operatives have been known in the past to favour using bogus Canadian passports.
"We don't know full details about what the paintings were but it was a completely commercial matter," Forer said.