Key documents in the investigation of the mining of the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior by French secret service agents have been destroyed, sources close to the government said today.
The disclosure came one day after Prime Minister Laurent Fabius publicly admitted that French agents were under orders July 10 when they sank the boat in the New Zealand port of Auckland.
The sources said new Defense Minister Paul Quiles became aware of the destroyed documents Saturday--the day after his predecessor, Charles Hernu, resigned the post amid mounting evidence of high-level French involvement in the affair.
Fabius gave Quiles a week to finish investigating the mining of the boat, which was to have led a flotilla of ships to protest French nuclear tests in the South Pacific.
A photographer for Greenpeace, an anti-nuclear and ecological group, was killed in the twin blasts that sank the ship.
The prime minister, in a hastily arranged television statement Sunday night, said the admission of French involvement was based on “initial results” of Quiles’ investigation. (Story on Page 15.)
Observers said the destruction of the documents could seriously affect the organization of the inquiry, which would be based primarily on documentary evidence.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister David Lange told a nationally televised news conference in Wellington today the revelations vindicated his stand on the matter and said, “The sad fact is that what we now have is a case of international, state-backed terrorism.”
Two French officers, Maj. Alain Mafart and Capt. Dominique Prieur, are under arrest in New Zealand and charged with murder and arson. They are to stand trial Nov. 4.
Lange said Fabius’ statement that three other French agents held in Paris and wanted for the bombing would not be punished or identified was “a complete reversal of earlier French assurances.”
“They pledged only a short time ago to bring these people to justice if it was shown that they were French,” he said.
Apology Not Sought
Lange said New Zealand no longer demands a French apology for the attack by the General Directorate for External Security, France’s intelligence service.
“An apology pales into insignificance compared with the enormity of a government in a civilized world acknowledging, first that it had spies in another country and then . . . announcing those spies were ordered to sink a peaceful ship in a New Zealand harbor,” he said.
He said New Zealand will demand compensation, which he estimated would run into millions of dollars.