Israel's intelligence agency has defended itself against a widescale criticism in Israel regarding officers venturing into a trip that was described as a “recreation trip in an Italian lake”.
Mossad said Wednesday that a retired agent was among four people killed in northern Italy when a sudden storm sank a houseboat hired for a weekend pleasure cruise on a lake.
The former agent was on the vessel with 22 other people on a lake near the town of Lisanza. Two Italian intelligence agents and a Russian woman — part of the two-person crew — also died.
"It was not an operational mission, but it was related to his work," hinted Israeli lawmaker, and former deputy head of the Mossad, Ram Ben Barak.
Mossad Director David Barnea attended the official funeral which was discreetly held for Officer Erez Shimoni.
Corriere della Sera newspaper said on Thursday that the purpose behind the gathering of the Italian intelligence members and the Israeli Mossad officer on a boat that capsized in Italy’s Lake Maggiore was to coordinate the monitoring of “Russian oligarchs” involved in transporting Iranian drones to Moscow.
The Italian newspaper added that area where the lake is located is an active spot for Russian oligarchs.
Italian media reported that the Mossad members didn’t plan the trip ahead of time, but the decision was taken on the spot. Their meeting with their Italian counterparts lasted longer than expected and they missed their flight to Israel.
The captain, identified by Italian media as Carlo Carminati, survived the mishap and was questioned by prosecutors. Media reports also said the boat, which capsized before sinking, only had a capacity of 15 passengers and two crew members.
Corriere della Sera quoted Carminati as saying, “It was 30 seconds, then the apocalypse came, the boat immediately capsized, and we fell into the water.”
Eyewitnesses said that the boat quickly capsized and four of the passengers sank. The rest of the passengers swam about 150 meters to the shore.
According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, ten Israelis survived the accident and were rushed back to Israel on a military plane. In parallel, Italian intelligence agents were also quickly evacuated from the emergency rooms "so as not to leave a trace."