Gadhafi son tried to go secretly to Mexico, official says

Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saadi Gadhafi, tried to flee to Mexico, officials say.

Story highlights

  • The name of the operation is "Operation House Guest"
  • Lawyer says Saadi Gadhafi has not tried to violate his restrictions
  • A newspaper investigation brought attention to the case
Saadi Gadhafi, a son of the deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, secretly tried to travel to Mexico using false documents, Mexico's interior minister said Wednesday.
Four people have been implicated in the alleged plot -- a Canadian, a Dane and two Mexicans, said the minister, Alejandro Poire.
The arrests of the alleged plotters, which occurred last month, were announced Wednesday. Officials called their efforts "Operation House Guest."
"With these actions, the federal government contributes actively to a safe North America," said Alejandra Sota, a government spokeswoman.
The plan was to provide false documents claiming Mexican nationality for Saadi Gadhafi and his family, and to purchase a number of properties in Mexico for use as safe houses, Poire said.
One of the houses was in Bahia de Banderas, a tourist town in western Mexico's Nayarit state, he said.
Mexican intelligence detected the alleged plot on September 6, he said.
Intelligence agents followed the trail and discovered that Cynthia Ann Vanier, a Canadian who was in direct contact with the Gadhafi family, was the leader of the ring, Poire said.
Vanier was arrested on November 10.
The next day, authorities arrested Gabriela Davila Huerta o Cueto, a Mexican living in the United States who Poire said was in charge of getting the false documents.
Pierre Christian Flemsborg, a Dane, was in charge of logistics, Poire said, and was arrested on November 11.
Also arrested was Mexican Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto, who helped obtain the phony documents, Poire said.
The suspects face charges that include falsifying documents and opening bank accounts under false identities.
According to Poire, the Gadhafis would have entered the country under the following aliases: Daniel Bejar Hanan, Amira Sayed Nader, Moah Bejar Sayed and Sofia Bejar Sayed.
Saadi Gadhafi remains in Niger, a landlocked West African nation bordering Libya, to which he fled this year as his father's regime was collapsing.
He had offered to negotiate an end to the war with the rebels in Libya after his father's troops lost control of Tripoli, but appeared later to change his mind.
Saadi Gadhafi's lawyer, Nick Kaufman, said he spoke with his client Wednesday.
"There is absolutely no truth whatsoever to the allegation that, since fleeing Libya where his life was in grave danger, Saadi Gaddafi has attempted to flout the restrictive measures placed on him by the international community," Kaufman said.
The alleged plot, however, would have been hatched while Saadi Gadhafi was still in Libya, before he fled to Niger.
Wednesday's announcement appeared to have been spurred by an investigation into the plot by the Canadian newspaper National Post.
The newspaper spoke with the CEO of a Canadian security company who said he was involved in the alleged plan to move Saadi and his family to Mexico. Gary Peters, CEO of Can/Aust Security and Investigations International, told the paper that the plan was to be carried out with the approval of the Mexican government, which was to have supplied the documentation.
Mexico contradicted that version with its own allegations Wednesday.
The National Post article mentioned Varnier, whom it identified as a Canadian consultant who traveled to Libya in July on fact-finding mission with Peters.
Two of the men who helped secure the private jet used for the trip were among those arrested with Varnier, the paper reported.
The Canadian government confirmed the arrest of a Canadian in connection with the case and said Canadian consular officials in Mexico City and in Ottawa were providing assistance as required.
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou had reaffirmed his country's decision to grant asylum to Saadi Gadhafi, saying he should be allowed to stay and be treated like other Libyan refugees. Libya's National Transitional Council has blasted that stance.
A businessman, Saadi Gadhafi ran the Libyan Football Federation before the unrest began. He played soccer for Perugia in Italy for one season. Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables posted on WikiLeaks say he had "scuffles" with police in Europe.
Moammar Gadhafi was killed in Libya on October 20.
Another of Moammar Gadhafi's sons, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, was captured after a gun battle in the Libyan desert. Senior Libyan military officials said they believe the potential Gadhafi successor was also trying to make his way to Niger.
Saif al-Islam had been on the run since shortly after rebels overran his father's Bab al-Aziziya compound in the capital in August.
The International Criminal Court in Netherlands wants Saif al-Islam for alleged crimes against humanity, including murder allegedly committed during the uprising.