The Times of India reported this morning:
An Israeli couple who came to the city on March 3, 2010, will be deported for "suspicious activities". Shneor Zalman and Yaffa Shenoi Berenstein came on a multiple-entry visa and rented a house on Rose Street, Fort Kochi, for Rs 50,000 per month, far higher than the market rate.
"Central intelligence got an alert about a covert operation being carried out by suspected Israeli agents after the 26/11 terror attacks in which south Mumbai's Chabad House came under attack and six Jews, including a Rabbi and his pregnant wife, were killed. A communication was sent to all states and it was our wing in Kerala that traced this couple at Fort Kochi," an intelligence officer here said.
Indian agencies will question two suspected Israeli agents before they are deported. "We have traced the couple's financial transactions. Preliminary investigations suggest similar Israelis are camping in various parts of the country," an official said.
In their report, the state intelligence department said a group of people turned up at the couple's rented house regularly and held meetings.
"These meetings lasted for hours in the night. They were under close surveillance".
The deportation order was slapped on Zalman and Shenoi last Monday after undercover Kerala Police officers tracked them for a year, questioned them and filed a report to Ernakulam collector P I Sheik Pareeth.
Shneor Zalman, born on September 2, 1984, and Yaffa Shenoi, born on January 27, 1988, entered the country on multiple-entry visas.
Fort Kochi is a major hub for foreign tourists next to the neighbourhood of Mattancherry, famous for its Jew Town. This is the historical part of town where Jews set up their first trading outpost centuries ago and built the country's oldest synagogue in 1568.
"A monthly rent of Rs 50,000 is disproportionately high, even in Fort Kochi. This is one of the main factors that made us suspicious," the intelligence source said. "They have been in the country from March 3, 2010. When their visas expired on March 3 last year, they went out and returned on April 1, 2011 on a new visa."
In a conversation with Chabad.info
, the local Shliach Rabbi Berenstein, vehemently denied a report that appeared in local media earlier in the day accusing them of being part of an Israeli covert operation.
Rabbi Shneor Zalman said that they were stunned by a story run by the Times of India in which unnamed Indian security officials said they were secret Israeli agents that would soon be deported from the country.
“I was invited here by the Jewish community of Kochi, and its director Mr. Yosef Alagawa
with the full knowledge of local authorities, we also received special visas for this” said Rabbi Berenstein. “I have no idea how the Indian intelligence service reached this absurd conclusion. I am sure it is a mistake." he continued.
"This afternoon we received an official letter from the Police department asking us to come over and respond to the espionage allegations. Otherwise, they threatened, we will be deported within 15 days." he said of the outcome, "We are taking the appropriate measures to take care of the situation."
In response to the question, how can such a claim be leveled at them, the Rabbi answered "Some members of the community have told me that it probably was a result of a complaint by one of the neighbors, who is not happy with our presence, or just got worried from the fact that we rented a big building and we have people coming in and out at all hours."