Three of the victims of Sunday’s shipwreck on Italy’s Lake Maggiore were members of the Israeli and Italian secret services, according to media reports from both countries.
Israel’s prime minister’s office confirmed on Wednesday that an Israeli was among the four people who drowned after a boat capsized on Italy’s Lake Maggiore and worked for the Mossad spy agency. The Times of Israel.
The victim was named by Italian media as 50-year-old Erez Shimoni, although his identity was not released by Israeli authorities.
In a brief statement, the Israeli prime minister’s office said it was “impossible to provide details of his activities due to his service within the organization.”
“Even after retirement, Mossad has lost a dear friend, a dedicated and professional worker who devoted his life to the security of the State of Israel for decades,” he said. “Mossad regrets this loss and shares the family’s grief.”
Shimoni’s body was flown to Israel for burial. The admission came as Italian media cited new quotes from the ship’s captain suspected of being murdered.
The captain, Claudio Carminati, was suspicious because the boat was carrying 23 passengers when, legally, it could only carry 15. His wife was among the dead.
Corriere della Sera quoted Carminati as saying on Wednesday: “It was 30 seconds, then disaster struck, the boat immediately capsized and I fell into the water.” He stressed that there was no advance warning that the weather would turn bad.
“I heard desperate cries for help and saw many people swimming in the freezing water,” said Franco Lora, a witness quoted by the Daily Mail.
The media also scrutinized the alleged activities of those on board, with some outlets reporting that the official claim of the birthday party concealed an operational meeting between Israeli and Italian intelligence agents.
Two of the dead – a 62-year-old man and a 53-year-old woman – admitted to being employees of Italy’s security services.
“The two intelligence officers were participating in a smooth meeting organized to celebrate the birthday of one of the group’s members,” he said in a statement.
Corriere della Sera newspaper reported on Tuesday that the meeting was a working meeting of intelligence agents. The Israelis had not originally planned to board the ship, but a meeting they were attending took longer than expected so they failed to get home, the newspaper said.
According to media reports, 19 of the 23 people on board were serving or former Israeli and Italian agents.
“It was an opportunity to exchange information between the agencies of the two countries,” La Stampa reported.
Ten other Israelis were reportedly on board and quickly flown back to Israel on a private plane operated by Israeli authorities. The flight took off from Tel Aviv on Monday morning and arrived at Milan Airport before returning to Ben Gurion Airport shortly after, according to flight tracking websites. The press writes that they did not wait to return the rental cars they used during the trip.
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