Dubai: The surfacing of Yuval Tal’s name in the investigation for the assassination of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh in Dubai has added weight to the pile of links pointing to the involvement of Israeli elements, but Tal’s involvement is of particular interest because it unveils links to Israel’s military and intelligence community.
The MasterCards used by some of the assassins were branded by US-based Meta Bank, but issued by another small company called Payoneer. The company specializes in prepaid debit cards that can be used as credit card alternatives for online shoppers.
Information that Tal and his company may have could prove vital in the assassination investigation.
Click here to know how the suspects are connected(pdf)
While Dubai Police has said that the Central Bank is in contact with "the issuers of the cards" it has refrained from commenting on Tal's involvement.
He could be the link, or could know the link, that authorities need to prove a Mossad connection in the assassination of Al Mabhouh.
Since the assassination, Tal has been shielded by a wall of public relations representatives and does not respond to media requests for comments.
The only known comment he made to the media since the killing was one to the Wall Street Journal, where he denied involvement.
Tal started his career as a product manager, moved on to business development, and in 1999 founded his first company E4X where he was CEO. He then moved on to found his current company, Payoneer, in 2005.
Payoneer raised $14 million in venture capital funding, and although it is registered in the US, most of its employees are based in Petah Tikva, Israel. The company was named by Israel’s business newspaper Globes in 2008 as one of Israel's most promising start-ups.
Payoneer also helps organize Birthright Israel trips, by providing debit cards for all travelers. Birthright is an Israeli charity that offers free trips to Israel for young Jews mostly from North America.
He does not hesitate to use Jewish comradeship to advance his interests - in a 2003 interview to Globes he said, "New York especially has a lot of warm Jews holding senior positions. We were not ashamed to email people we don't know and tell them our story. We got a call back, with plenty of good will, almost every time."
Tal is referred to by his associates in Israel as "an outspoken Israeli patriot" despite having lived in New York for over ten years.
In a 2006 FOX News interview about Israel's summer war on Lebanon, Tal was presented as a "special ops commando" on Fox and Friends, and stated that "this is a war Israel cannot [afford to] lose" after an Israeli apache helicopter went down in Israel, apparently shot at by Hezbollah.
The video had disappeared from video sharing web sites after the assassination, but was recently uploaded to YouTube again [see video below].
While Tal’s public relations representatives in New York have refused to comment on his past and relations with Israel's intelligence agency Mossad, a person who said he met him a couple of times at Jewish community events in New York, and did not want to be named, said "there is no question in my mind that Yuval has contacts with Mossad".
He recalled a conversation Tal had with attendees of a Jewish charity event in New York, where he spoke of his connections with Mossad.
"During cocktail hour, Yuval was entertaining a small group of people with tales of his IDF [Israel Defense Forces] exploits and how good the IDF was and what poor and cowardly fighters the Arabs were. Specifically, he was commending how good Israeli intelligence was and how the Mossad and [Israel’s internal security agency] Shin Bet always gave him great information on his commando raids. Furthermore he said his 'colleagues' got [Hamas leaders Ahmed] Yassin and [Abdul Aziz] Rantisi and they are tracking [current leaders Khaled] Mesh’al and [Esmail] Haniyeh's movements almost every day and will get them too," he said.
One of Payoneer’s investors, too, has a past in Israeli intelligence. Moshe Mor, founder of Greylock partners, one of the venture capital funds that has invested in Payoneer. According to Greylock’s website, Mor formerly served in the Israeli army as a military intelligence captain.
The other two venture capital funds that have invested in Payoneer are Carmel Ventures and Crossbar Capital.
Carmel Ventures is based in Herzliya, Israel and Crossbar Partners is run by Charlie Federman, who is also managing director of the BRM Group, also in Herzliya that was founded by Nir and Eli Barkat, the former of whom is the mayor of occupied Jerusalem.