MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities said Wednesday that a son of the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and three relatives had plotted to sneak into Mexico under false names and move to a safe house at a posh Pacific coast resort.
The elaborate plan to bring al-Saadi Gadhafi to Mexico allegedly involved two Mexicans, a Canadian and a Danish suspect, all of whom have been detained, Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said.
He did not reveal which relatives had planned to accompany Al-Saadi Gadhafi, who is known for his love of professional soccer and run-ins with police in Europe.
The plot was uncovered by Mexican intelligence agents in early September as al-Saadi was fleeing Libya shortly after his father’s ouster. He never made it to Mexico, but did reach the Western African country of Niger, where he has been living.
The plotters allegedly jetted into Mexico, opened bank accounts and bought properties meant to be used as safe houses in several parts of the country, including one at a resort on Mexico’s Pacific coast.
“The large economic resources which this criminal organization has, or had, allowed them to contract private flights,” Poire told a news conference.
Poire said the leader of the plot was a Canadian woman he identified as Cynthia Vanier.
He said she had been detained on Nov. 10 and is being held, along with three other suspects, under a form of house arrest on suspicion of using false documents, human smuggling and organized crime.
“I haven’t heard anything about today’s matters and I’m waiting to see if I can get something back about it,” Vanier’s Toronto-based attorney, Paul Copeland, said in an interview.
“I haven’t heard from her at all. I’ve been contacted in regard to her. It’s been a while.”
Vanier runs Vanier Consulting Ltd., a “practice dedicated to high-risk unconventional mediation work,” according to a resume obtained by The Canadian Press.
A woman who answered the telephone at Vanier Consulting in Mount Forest, Ont., would not give her name, and did not respond to requests for an interview.
Lisa Scheeringa, an employee of Vanier consulting, also declined to comment. Calls to Vanier’s home were not returned.
The Foreign Affairs Department confirmed Vanier’s arrest and said officials in Ottawa and Mexico City are “providing consular assistance as required.”
Vanier worked as a mediator between Attawapiskat First Nation and the nearby Victor diamond mine, owned by De Beers Canada, in the fall of 2009, a reserve official said.
Her resume also cites work with various other aboriginal groups, including Caledonia’s Six Nations of the Grand River from 2006 to 2007.
She also says she assisted in the Ipperwash Provincial Park standoff in 1995.
Poire said Vanier “was the direct contact with the Gadhafi family and the leader of the group, and presumably was the person in charge of the finances of the operation.
The plot also allegedly involved a Mexican woman who lived in the United States, who Poire said served as the liaison to obtain the falsified Mexican identity documents.
A Danish man alleged served as “the logistic liaison” for the plan, Poire said. He said the alleged conspirators also travelled to Kosovo “and several Middle Eastern countries.”
“The activities of the criminal organization in our country included the falsification of official documents, the opening of bank accounts with false documents (and) the purchase of real estate that was intended, among other things, to serve as a residence for the Gadhafi family at a house located in the zone of the Bahia de Banderas,” just north of the resort of Puerto Vallarta, Poire said.
The Mexican officials made no mention of Moammar Gadhafi himself being involved in the plan, and Poire did not say which relatives might have planned to accompany the son to Mexico.
The elder Gadhafi was ousted from power in late August and was captured and killed in Libya on Oct. 20.
Gary Peters, the director of Ontario, Canada-based Can/Aust Security and Investigations International Inc., said in a telephone interview that he had worked as al-Saadi’s North America security chief for several years and confirmed that Gadhafi had planned to travel to Mexico because “he was interested in buying property there in Punta Mita.”
Al-Saadi had never been there before and “probably” read about it in a magazine, Peters said. “It’s a pretty well-known place. It’s a high-falutin’ place.”
The resort features private villas, five-star hotels and a golf course. The resort’s website, Puntamita.com, describes it as “an inviting seaside playground, a natural magnet for aquatic adventures. The sparkling waters, pristine beaches, coral reef and occasionally rocky coast inspire a host of delightful experiences.”
Peters told The Associated Press he knew Vanier and confirmed that her role was to get travel documents for Gadhafi’s son, but he said the arrangements were legitimate, as far as he knew.
“It wasn’t smuggling. I don’t understand how they’re saying it was smuggling,” he said.
The plan, Peters said, “was to help him get there on humanitarian rights.” Asked if that meant he might have intended to file an asylum claim, Peters said “I can’t really comment on it at the moment. Cindy’s in jail now so I don’t know what’s going on down there.”
“I don’t know where these documents were coming from; that was all Cindy’s area. I was just doing security,” Peters said.
“As far as I knew, the contacts that she was talking to, they weren’t going to be false, they were going to be legitimate documents.” But he added he didn’t know whether al-Saadi’s name would appear on the passports. “I don’t know whose name, I don’t know, that wasn’t my area.”
Poire said the false travel documents were issued in the names of “Daniel Bejar Hanan, Amira Sayed Nader, Moah Bejar Sayed and Sofia Bejar Sayed.” The Gadhafi name did not appear on any of the documents.
Peters said the plan for al-Saadi to travel to Mexico is now off, noting “that’s not going to happen, obviously.” The call was then cut off.
Peters told the Canada’s National Post newspaper in an interview published in October that he worked mostly for Saadi but said he had also briefly guarded Col. Gadhafi’s sons Saif al-Islam and Hannibal.
He said he helped Saadi flee to Niger and he had escorted Hannibal and Col. Gaddafi’s daughter Ayesha from Libya to Algeria in a convoy.
After Peters delivered Saadi to Niger, he returned to Libya, where gunmen opened fire on his three-vehicle convoy, wounding him, he told the newspaper.
Outsiders have long viewed Mexico as a good place for fugitives to lose themselves in. Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky took refuge in Mexico in the 1930s, and was murdered here by a Soviet agent in 1940. The jailbreaker portrayed in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” finds a new life under blue Mexican skies. In the 1960s, Jimi Hendrix sang, “I’m going way down south, way down to Mexico way, … where I can be free,” in the song “Hey Joe.”
In 2003, Andrew Luster, a Max Factor heir, jumped a $1 million bond on charges that he drugged and raped three women.
Bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman and others apprehended Luster, who was taken back to the United States to serve a 124-year prison sentence.