Mexico has foiled a plot to smuggle the son of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi into the country and hide him in a safe house near the coastal resort of Puerto Vallarta.
Interior Minister Alejandro Poire said an intelligence operation was mounted after the government obtained information in September that al-Saadi Qaddafi and members of his family were using counterfeit documents to enter the country, open bank accounts and purchase land near the Pacific Ocean resort.
Officials in November captured a Canadian, Danish and two Mexican citizens that formed part of the international ring that moved in private aircraft between the U.S., Canada, Kosovo and several Middle Eastern countries, Poire said. The group’s leader, a Canadian woman named Cynthia Vanier, was taken into custody in Mexico City and one of the Mexican members was a U.S. resident, he added.
“Preventing the entry of al-Saadi Qaddafi constitutes, without a doubt, another sign that Mexican institutions have the capacity to safeguard the national territory,” Poire told reporters in Mexico City.
Poire did not say whether the nation’s drug cartels, which in October were linked to an Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S., were involved.
Al-Saadi, the former dictator’s third son, fled to Niger’s capital, Niamey, after his father lost control of Tripoli in August. He is wanted by Libyan officials on suspicion of “armed intimidation.”
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Canada’s National Post reported today that Qaddafi had planned to flee to Punta Mita, an exclusive resort near Puerto Vallarta whose visitors include Hollywood celebrities Kim Kardashian and Charlie Sheen.
A Canadian company, Can/Aust Security and Investigations International, had offered $1,000 per day to security contractors to help them escort Qaddafi, his wife and children to the resort, the Toronto-based newspaper said. The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Gary Peters, told the Post that he was involved in the plan, which was to be conducted with the support of Mexican authorities.
Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for al-Saadi on Sept. 29 at the request of the National Transitional Council for allegedly “misappropriating properties through force and armed intimidation” when he headed the Libyan Football Federation. The police group, based in Lyon, France, said that the 38-year-old should be located, arrested and handed over to Libyan authorities.”
Al-Saadi Qaddafi is also subject to a United Nations travel ban and asset freeze imposed in March because he was a commander of military units allegedly involved in the repression of demonstrations during Libya’s uprising.
Nick Kaufman, a lawyer for Qaddafi, said in an e-mail that his client remains in Niger and will continue to respect UN travel sanctions until a “competent” body lifts them and authorities in the African nation return his passport. Kaufman didn’t comment on the report in Mexico.