A former Saudi spymaster, now living in exile in Toronto, says a lawsuit alleging he embezzled billions of dollars is part of an ongoing campaign of intimidation by Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince.
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has issued an order freezing Saad Aljabri’s assets, luxury properties, and bank accounts in Europe, Malta, the British Virgin Islands, the United States and Canada — including his $13-million mansion in Toronto.
But in court documents filed Tuesday, Aljabri contends the case is a “politically motivated attack.”
“This proceeding is the latest stage of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman’s ongoing efforts to achieve absolute power in Saudi Arabia, masquerading as a commercial dispute in Canada.”
Companies tied to the current Saudi regime filed the lawsuit in Toronto on Jan. 22. It alleges Aljabri funnelled security and counterterrorism funds from Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry to himself, his family and associates.
“Although the investigation is ongoing, it is clear that from at least 2008 to 2017, Aljabri masterminded and oversaw a conspiracy incorporating at least 21 conspirators across at least 13 jurisdictions to misappropriate at least [$4.3 billion] from the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states.
Power shift in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, has undergone a major powershift since 2017. That year, King Salman removed his nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN) and replaced him with his son Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). MBN was placed under house arrest, accused of plotting a coup.
Western analysts say 35-year-old MBS has pushed the Kingdom towards a more aggressive foreign policy, pursuing his enemies at home and abroad with ruthlessness to cement his claim to the throne.
Aljabri, 62, was MBN’s chief advisor. As Minister of State and head of security and counterterrorism, he was a key member of the regime.
He was stripped of his duties in 2015. Following the power change in 2017, he fled the country and now lives in a mansion on The Bridle Path, one of Canada’s most upscale residential neighbourhoods.
Two of Aljabri’s children, Omar and Sarah, 17 and 18 at the time, were detained before they could flee Saudi Arabia in June 2017 on the same day that MBN was removed. They were subsequently charged and convicted of money laundering and are now imprisoned. Aljabri has said there was no evidence to warrant their detention or charges.
Aljabri claims he is being targeted as part of a purge of loyalists from a competing branch of the royal family. As a former top intelligence official, he says he has damaging information about the inner workings of the House of Saud.
In August, Aljabri sued the Crown Prince in the U.S., alleging MBS sent a hit squad to Canada in 2018 to try to assassinate him and his family, and of holding two of his children hostage in Saudi Arabia.
None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Hit squad allegedly dispatched to Canada
Aljabri declined interview requests. His lawyer said he is reluctant to argue the legal case in the media but said in a statement the family is in a “deadly-serious” fight for their lives.
“Within days of the MBS regime engineering the gruesome, cold blooded murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, a team of assassins connected to the MBS regime attempted to enter Canada through Ottawa,” lawyer Paul Le Vay wrote in an email.
“They were detected by sharp-eyed airport security officials,” Le Vay wrote. “Had this hit squad gained entry, it is entirely likely that a Khashoggi-style assassination would have taken place on our soil. Every Canadian should be appalled that an autocratic regime sought to use our country as a killing ground to meet its own political ends.”
Khashoggi was a Saudi Arabian dissident and Washington Post columnist. He was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on Oct. 2, 2018.