Mexican prosecutors say that Cyndy Vanier — a Canadian accused of leading a plot to smuggle members of slain Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s family to Mexico — was caught Nov. 10 with forged Mexican identification.
Vanier was preparing for business meetings in Mexico City with the head of Libya operations for Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, a CBC News investigation into the case has learned.
Prosecutors say Vanier had a "falsified" Mexican voting card — a common form of identification in Mexico — along with a Canadian passport when she was taken into custody. Officials also say they seized a fake Mexican passport and a doctored birth certificate in her name.
Vanier’s father says it’s all a frame-up.
"There was identity theft here, and someone was trying to set her up" by planting the forged voter’s card, John MacDonald told CBC News in a telephone interview from Mexico.
"Cyndy was shopping with a couple of people, and to my knowledge a person gave her a gift of a wallet approximately 20 minutes before she was arrested on the street while they were out shopping — and that voting card was in that wallet," MacDonald said.
Vanier’s parents refused to identify who gave her the wallet, citing the need to protect their daughter’s upcoming legal defence.
However, her father added, the additional bogus documents weren’t in his daughter’s possession, but were being used without her knowledge by a group of criminals in a fraud "to arrange a mortgage and embezzle funds from her on the house she was in the process of buying for her own personal use."
MacDonald said his daughter was in the process of trying to sell a condo bought two years ago in Mexico, and had a bid in on a beachfront house she intended to live in and use as her base of operations for the winter.
Mexican prosecutors announced Wednesday that anonymous email tips sparked their probe, which involved wiretaps and email monitoring and led to charges that Vanier led a group of criminals involved in human smuggling, forging documents and using fake identification and passports.
They allege the ring planned to buy up properties in a bid to set up Saadi Gadhafi and his family in a new life in Bahia de Banderas, Mexico.
In July 2011, amid NATO bombing and all out war in Libya, SNC-Lavalin paid to fly Vanier and an entourage to the region for a "fact-finding mission" on the basis it would supply them updates on its projects and the conditions for its employees — most of whom had fled.
Vanier prepared a report documenting alleged "atrocities" involving NATO bombs and rebel fighters, which she delivered to SNC-Lavalin and to CANADEM, an agency funded by Foreign Affairs. While SNC-Lavalin praised the report, indicating it confirmed what its employees had been telling them, it was dismissed as biased by many in Ottawa who read it.
But according to Gary Peters, whom Vanier hired for security during the trip, the mission had a second purpose. Peters, who for years had worked as a bodyguard for Saadi Gadhafi, acknowledged Vanier was used as a "dupe."
The idea for the mission was his in the service of his boss, Peters told CBC News. He said he invited Vanier to lead the trip, and suggested she approach SNC-Lavalin to fund it in hopes she would visit and draft a report to present a pro-Gadhafi side to the conflict.
Peters said Saadi Gadhafi was upset the report never received widespread attention in Western media as intended.
CBC News has made numerous requests for interviews with SNC-Lavalin, but the company has repeatedly refused, issuing only short emailed statements.