Mexico said Wednesday it had broken up an international plot led by a Canadian woman to smuggle a son of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi into Mexico under false names and with false Mexican documents.
The elaborate plan to bring al-Saadi Gadhafi and his family to Mexico also allegedly involved two Mexicans and a Danish suspect, Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire said.
The plot was uncovered 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 the resort of Bahia de las Banderas 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 Canadian Cynthia Vanier. He said she had been detained Nov. 10 and is being held, along with three other suspects, under a form of house arrest on suspicion of falsifying documents.
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," he said.
Vanier's Toronto-based attorney, Paul Copeland, told The Canadian Press he hadn't "heard anything about today's matters and I'm waiting to see if I can get something back about it. I haven't heard from her at all. I've been contacted in regard to her. It's been a while."
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.
'It's a high-falutin' place.'— Security expert Gary Peters on Punta Mita, where Gadhafi family planned to move
"The activities of the criminal organization in our country included the falsification of official documents, the opening of bank accounts with false documents, the purchase of real estate that were 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.
The Mexican officials made no mention of Moammar Gadhafi's involvement 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, director of Ontario-based Can/Aust Security & 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.
Peters told The Associated Press he knew Vanier and said 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 whether 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 Gadhafi name did not appear on any of the false travel documents.
In Ottawa, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said it is aware of the arrest of a Canadian citizen in Mexico City. It said Canadian consular officials in Mexico City are monitoring.