The Plumbat Affair

Elaine Davenport, Paul Eddy and Peter Gillman

Additional research by Leni Gillman

Andre Deutsch



List of Plates

Author’s Note

Cast of Characters

  1 Murder in Norway

  2 A Secret Place, A Secret Service

  3 A Small Town in Germany

  4 A Valuable Commodity

  5 The Mysterious Mr Yarisal

  6 It’s Okay By Euratom

  7 Operation Plumbat

  8 Gunboat Diplomacy

  9 The Good Ship Sofa…

10 A Little Help From Panama

11 Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

12 Home to Haifa

13 Loose Ends

14 The Salesman Was a Spy

15 The Wrath of Zwi Zamir

16 A Fatal Mistake

17 Confession

18 Friends at Court

19 Closing the Stable Door

20 Consequences




List of Plates

Between pages 112 and 113


The Scheersberg A


Dan Aerbel in his role as a salesman

Dan Aerbel after his arrest in 1973

Zwi Zamir

Herbert Schulzen

Francesco Sertorio

Asmara Chemie’s premises near Wiesbaden


Ali Hassan Salameh

Ahmed Bouchiki

Sylvia Raphael

Steinar Ravlo


The Plumbat Affair is based primarily on inquiries we made in seventeen countries and some 200 interviews. We conducted most of the interviews ourselves but we owe a considerable debt to a number of other journalists who either gave us the product of their own interviews or questioned witnesses on our behalf: in Paris, Antony Terry, European Editor of The Sunday Times; in Hamburg, Jay Tuck; in Mainz, Gunter Kitzinger; in Milan, Dalbert Hallenstein; in Oslo, Arvid Bryne; and in Copenhagen, Ole Schierbeck. We also owe thanks to Tony Geraghty of The Sunday Times whose original investigation of the disappearance of the uranium provided valuable guidance.

We benefited, too, from the work of authors who have written about related topics. A full bibliography appears on pages 183-84.

Finally, we have some personal debts to pay. Georgetta Moliterno, Laurie Zimmerman and Tammy Pittman, all in New York, and June Pratt in London did dozens of jobs for us patiently and well. Shirley Poluck typed the manuscript with remarkable energy and Gordon Phillips compiled the index. Robert Ducas, our agent and friend, provided, as always, magnificent encouragement. And, most of all, we have to thank Leni Gillman whose research and administration made this book possible.

Elaine Davenport

Paul Eddy

Peter Gillman

February 1978

Cast of Characters

The reader is invited to use this list of main characters both as a preview of what is to come and, later, as a reference for a name forgotten.

MAGNHILD AANESTAD  Norwegian detective with slender wrists and a liking for simple summer dresses

DAN AERBEL  Mossad agent who gave away every secret he knew, and…

DEBRA AERBEL  his Israeli-born wife

FELIX AMIOT  built the Israeli gunboats in Cherbourg

MEIR AMIT  replaced Isser Harel as director of Mossad

ASMARA CHEMIE  of Wiesbaden bought 200 tons of uranium oxide

ROLF BAHER  Mossad agent caught up in murder

WILHELM BARCON  Asmara Chemie salesman who broke down the resistance of front-office secretaries

PETER BARROW  temporary skipper of the Scheersberg A with a predilection for dark blue shirts and trousers

KEMAL BENAMENE  perhaps a courier for Black September, he led Mossad to Lillehammer

DAVID BEN-GURION  Israel’s first Prime Minister who ordered Mossad to employ restraint

JUERGEN-ADOLF BINDER  a senior partner of August Bolten, he looked uneasily on the sale of the Scheersberg A

BISCAYNE TRADERS SHIPPING CORPORATION gave the Scheersberg A a Liberian flag and a new and mysterious crew

BKA  the West German equivalent of the FBI, conducted an energetic investigation

BLACK SEPTEMBER  planned the Munich massacre and caused Mossad to seek revenge

BND  West Germany’s CIA, helped plant an Israeli agent in Cairo

AUGUST BOLTEN  a Hamburg shipping company which sold the Scheersberg A to the elusive Burham Yarisal

PIERRE BOMMELLE  Euratom’s bloodhound who took his Geiger counter to West Germany in search of the uranium

AHMED BOUCHIKI  met a stranger in Lillehammer and marked himself for death, and…

TORILL BOUCHIKI  his Norwegian wife

MILA BRENNER  set up Starboat in Panama to get the gunboats out of Cherbourg

GUIDO BRUNNER  become Energy Commissioner of the EEC and tried to explain the Plumbat cover-up

CHIMAGAR  the Moroccan company originally selected to receive the uranium

CIEEMG  gave French government approval for the Starboat deal

CMN  Felix Amiot’s company which was Cherbourg’s life blood

FRANCISCO COUSILLAS  replaced Peter Barrow and wanted to know where the Sheersberg A had been

RAOUL COUSIN another member of Mossad’s ‘hit team’

MOSHE DAYAN  Israel’s Minister of Defence, he argued for conversion of the nuclear option

DENIS DEWEZ  sold Asmara Chemie its uranium and then, innocently, nearly wrecked the plan

MICHAEL DE WITT  employed Aerbel as a salesman in Europe

DIMONA  the site of Israel’s nuclear reactor, guarded mercilessly

MICHAEL DORF  was arrested for the Lillehammer murder but later cleared

ALDO EGGERS-LURA  was sorry when Aerbel gave up his job as a salesman of Danish furniture

E-GRUPPA  the Norwegian police squad which investigated the Lillehammer murder

DAN ERT / ERTESCHIK / ERTZ / ERTL  the different names Aerbel used

EURATOM  Europe’s nuclear watchdog which had no bite and little bark

EUROPEAN COMMISSION  the EEC’s executive which decided to cover up the Plumbat affair

EEC  the European Economic Community, then made up of Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT  was furious when it found out about the cover-up

COMMANDER EZRA  obeyed orders and took the gunboats from Cherbourg to Haifa

JOB FASS  made knick-knacks which Aerbel sold to Galeries Lafayette

GEORGES FRANJISTAS  bought the Scheersberg A from Aerbel and renamed it after his daughter

CHARLES DE GAULLE  the French President who said ‘non’ when Israel wanted more aeroplanes and uranium

REINHARD GEHLEN  ran the West German BND

ABRAHAM GEHMER  another Mossad agent, he pretended to be a schoolteacher from England

MARIANNE GLADNIKOFF  short and slightly plump she found she had been recruited for a Mossad ‘hit team’

GUNNAR HAARSTAD  head of Norway’s secret service he realized the enormous implications of the secret in the Lillehammer file

WILHELM HAFERKAMP  was EEC Energy Commissioner when Mossad mounted Operation Plumbat

LUDWIG HANSEN  was ordered to abandon his post as captain of the Scheersberg A

ISSER HAREL  Mossad’s first director, he captured Adolf Eichmann but then went too far

HAROULA  became the Scheersberg A’s new name when Georges Franjistas bought her

NORA HEFFNER  another member of Mossad’s ‘hit team’

MARCEL HEYNEN  worked for Ziegler & Co and drank whisky with Captain Barrow

TORBEN HVIID  lived on the edge of the law and gave Aerbel free admission to ‘Love In’

JONATHAN INGLEBY  Mossad agent and killer

ENRICO JACCHIA  led Euratom’s investigation

ROLF JAHRMANN  head of E-Gruppa, he did not understand the significance of Aerbel’s explosive confession

PETER KOERNER  returned to the Scheersberg A and found that two vital pages from the logbook had been torn out

GERARD LAFOND  unwittingly provided cover for another member of the Mossad ‘hit team’

GERD LANZ  set up Biscayne Traders Shipping Corporation but refused to reveal the identity of his client

HERBERT LETTKO  Asmara Chemie’s persistent salesman, he missed the point of a joke

PAUL LEVENTHAL  heard intoxicating rumours on Capitol Hill and broke the Plumbat story

LEIF LIER  heard an amazing confession from Marianne Gladnikoff

MORDECAI LIMON  ordered the gunboats to sail from Cherbourg

WOLFGANG LOTZ  spied for Israel in Cairo and joined in an explosive campaign to deter German scientists

KAJ LUND  used his legal skills to set up ‘Love In’ and dissolve Biscayne Traders

RUDOLF MADSEN  was taken aback when Aerbel sold souvenirs in Libya

GEORG MANNER  led Mossad’s hit team to Lillehammer

GOLDA MEIR  Israel’s Prime Minister, she ordered revenge for the Munich massacre

METALLURGIE HOBOKEN-OVERPELT  stored the uranium near the red-brick village with an improbable legend

JEAN MIKOLAJCAK  was titular head of SGM’s uranium division and stressed that the deal was confidential

UWE MOELLER  helped Yarisal to buy the Scheersberg A and Aerbel to sell it

MOSSAD  the Institute was the most battle-hardened secret service in the world

YUVAL NE’EMAN  computerized Mossad’s files and designed Israel’s bomb

FELIX OBOUSSIER  gave Asmara Chemie the approval it needed

LESLIE ORBAUM  was the alias used by Abraham Gehmer

KNUD PEDERSEN  provided the Cherbourg connection and died mysteriously

SHIMON PERES  Israeli cabinet minister, he rented the smallest car he could find to drive to West Germany

GUSTAV PISTAUER  told Aerbel to stop asking questions

GEORGES POMPIDOU m President of France, he was reckoned by Mossad to be no de Gaulle

PFLP  Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which struck at Israel through terrorism

SYLVIA RAPHAEL  cruised on a yacht with Aerbel and joined the Lillehammer ‘hit team’

STEINAR RAVLO  knew that Aerbel was going to confess

KLAUS REHWAGEN  hired Ziegler & Co to get the uranium to Antwerp

PATRICIA ROXBURGH  Sylvia Raphael’s alias

SAICA [Società Anonima Italiana Colori ed Affini], the Italian paint company which run into a little trouble

ALI HASSAN SALAMEH planned the Munich massacre and became Mossad’s prime target

HERBERT SCHARF named his new company after a town in Ethiopia

SCHEERSBERG A showed her age but kept her silent rendez-vous in the Mediterranean

OLE SCHIERBECK remembered a meeting in a Hamburg hotel and revealed the Cherbourg connection

HERBERT SCHULZEN was called ‘the Nazi pilot’ but his name went into Mossad’s files

FRANCESCO SERTORIO was not bothered that his paint company had no idea how to treat uranium

JEAN-LUC SEVENIER served with Aerbel in Mossad’s advance team

SGM received an order for uranium which it could easily fill

MARTIN SIEM impressed the French with his entry in the international edition of Who’s Who

STARBOAT said it wanted to use gunboats for oil exploration

ZWI STEINBERG Mossad agent with a double identity – ‘My God,’ said the policeman, ‘that’s Zipstein’

TAMARA Manner’s mistress and a killer

FIRST OFFICER TILNET nearly steered the Scheersberg A into trouble

GEOFFREY TOLLMAN was not sorry when his partnership with Aerbel ended

INGO TREPEL had a bright idea which got Schulzen started

JOSEF VERHULST got up early to make sure the uranium was loaded

VIKING had no substance but reduced Aerbel’s unwelcome air of mystery

HAKON WIKER Norwegian state prosecutor, he found himself in the hot seat

BURHAM YARISAL founded a company and bought a ship and disappeared when it suited him

ZWI ZAMIR replaced Amit as head of Mossad and changed the rules – with disastrous consequences

ZIEGLER & COMPANY made all the arrangements and paid the bill for the consequences of an unfortunate accident

VICTOR ZIPSTEIN Steinberg’s alias when he drove Admiral Limon’s car