Report: Israel attempted to recruit French spies as double agents

Published March 28th, 2017 - 07:00 GMT
A pro-Israel rally in France in 2014. (AFP/Boris Horvat)
A pro-Israel rally in France in 2014. (AFP/Boris Horvat)

The Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency, attempted to infiltrate French espionage services and turn some of its employees into double agents who would provide Israel with secret intelligence, according to a special report by the French daily Le Monde overnight Sunday. 

Le Monde supported its claims by including in its report excerpts it had obtained from an internal report written by French intelligence. According to the report, the Mossad had tried to develop relationships with French spies "to the point of crossing the line of turning them into double agents."

The attempt by the Mossad to turn French spies reportedly took place between 2010 and 2011, when French secret services and the Israeli agency collaborated to combat the Syrian regime's plans of developing chemical weapons. During the joint operation, which was dubbed 'Ratafia,' the French counterintelligence agency and the Mossad tried to recruit a senior Syrian engineer with the intention of luring him to come to France to gain additional training and help recruit other engineers. 

However, as the French intelligence report suggests, the Israeli agents had taken advantage of their proximity to their French counterparts to try and persuade a number of them to become regular intelligence sources for Israel. 

Le Monde's report claimed that Operation Ratafia was considered a significant success by the Mossad, as it enabled Israel to prove that the cooperation between the EU and Syria was utilized to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad's notorious chemical weapons program

The French daily also said that the Mossad was successful in recruiting the aforementioned Syrian engineer and extracting information from him regarding the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal. 

Le Monde noted several suspicious incidents that the report had highlighted, such as an instance when one of the French agents attended a Shabbat dinner at the house of the Mossad's Paris bureau chief. The same agent later reported that he was going on vacation to Dubai when in fact he traveled to Israel, where he spent time with Mossad agents without reporting that he had done so. 

Another alleged example the report included was a recording of suspicious sums that were deposited in bank accounts of French agents who were part of the Ratafia operation. Le Monde reported that several agents also received large sums of money in cash and presents from their Israeli colleagues. As a result, the French agents were transferred to less prestigious roles and their security clearances were frozen. 

The French publication claimed that the purported ties between the Mossad agents and the French spies were first uncovered by another French espionage agency in charge of information security, who had kept tabs on the agents and documented their meetings with Mossad agents. 

All Mossad agents involved in the case were identified by their real names, Le Monde reported. France has filed a formal complaint against them, and in the six years that have lapsed since, Mossad's Paris chief has returned to Israel. Two Israeli agents who are suspected of involvement in the case have left their positions and, according to the report, are now residing in Tel Aviv, where they both work as businessmen. 

Nonetheless, it appears that the former agents have recently tried to reach out to a counterintelligence official they had previously worked with in Paris. Le Monde reported that in 2016, the French intelligence official, named Squarcini, told French investigators that he met the two "totally by chance." 

His alleged interaction with the two retired Mossad agents is notedly corrupt if it is revealed to be true, considering that Squarcini himself launched his own internal investigation into the allegations against the Mossad agents. However, the agents Squarcini had put under surveillance were not involved in the Ratafia operation, despite the fact that the former was well aware of the connection that was formed between the Mossad agents and the French agents who collaborated on the case. 

Le Monde is expected to release two additional reports on the controversial revelation. 

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