Gadhafi bodyguard says Mexico move long abandoned

A Canadian who worked for members of Libya's Gadhafi family says a plan to move one of the dictator's sons to Mexico was ditched long before a Canadian woman was arrested.

Plan to smuggle dictator's son supposedly scrapped before Vanier's arrest

Gadhafi bodyguard speaks to the CBC's Dave Seglins

11 years ago
Duration 8:43
Al-Saadi Gadhafi's personal bodyguard, Gary Peters, gives the scoop on the real Mexico plot

A Canadian security contractor who served as a bodyguard for members of Libya's deposed Gadhafi family says there was a plan to move one of the former dictator's sons to Mexico, but it was abandoned long before a Canadian woman was arrested by Mexican authorities.

In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Gary Peters, based in Cambridge, Ont., says Cynthia Vanier consulted on a plan to move al-Saadi Gadhafi and members of his family to Mexico, but it was abandoned in June when it was deemed to be illegal.

Vanier, a mediation consultant from Mount Forest, Ont., has been held in a Mexican detention centre since Nov. 10. Mexican authorities have accused her of orchestrating a criminal plot to smuggle the family to Mexico under assumed identities. She's being detained with three co-accused, and has not been charged.

"It's untrue," Peters told the CBC. "There were plans earlier in the year or processes of trying to get these documents for his family legally and when we found out in June that it couldn't be done legally it was quashed.

"The idea — it was put to rest."

Mexico plan tied to months of work in Libya

Peters, a former special services soldier with the Australian army, says he began doing security work for al-Saadi Gadhafi in 2002. He helped Gadhafi move to the Niger border in September, and is still in constant contact with him while he is there under house arrest.  While working as a security consultant, he met Vanier on a mediation trip she made to Attawapiskat on James Bay.

Mexican media reports say this home in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico, was to be a home for al-Saadi Gadhafi. (David Agren/National Post)
It was Peters who connected Vanier, who had done mostly work around North America, to the conflict in North Africa.

"I spoke with Cyndy in February this year when I went back [to Libya] and the trouble started," recalled Peters. "I thought she'd be a good asset to have to take over there on a fact-finding tour."

Vanier hired Peters as her body guard/minder when she received a contract from SNC-Lavalin to do a fact-finding tour in July of this year. The goal, Peters said, was "to interview both sides and to see atrocities from both sides, and bring it back and expose it. To show the world that there is another side to the story."

Vanier was also tasked to gauge the safety of SNC-Lavalin workers and the properties where they worked.

She also prepared a report that was sent to Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, which was deemed by those who saw it as one-sided in favour of the Gadhafi regime.

Before their July trip, Peters and Vanier were using their respective contacts to see if they could move al-Saadi Gadhafi to Mexico, if need be.

"We were all involved in trying to get it done legally.  But, like I said in June when we found out that it couldn't be done, the idea was dropped.

"We never went back to that idea again."

Peters parted ways with Vanier in August over a dispute he did not want to disclose. Vanier continued to work for SNC-Lavalin, he said.

Vanier's arrest in November came after a series of events which Mexican authorities — as well as the RCMP and Canada Border Services agency are probing — including her flights to Mexico aboard private charter airplanes, and land transactions down south.

Peters claims, as Vanier's parents do, that there were an unfortunate series of events that have been misconstrued by authorities.

"The Mexicans are a little bit discombobulated at this time," and stringing unconnected facts together, he said.

Peters said there is nothing nefarious about Vanier's flights to Mexico on a private plane. It was common in his dealings with Libya to have planes on standby to move people, if needed, he said.

Mexican authorities allege Vanier led a plot to smuggle Gadhafi family members to properties being bought in an exclusive gated community of Punta Mita near Puerto Vallarta.

Peters told CBC News that earlier this year he himself travelled to Mexico to source potential homes that might have been used by al-Saadi Gadhafi, but insists Vanier had nothing to do with it.

Cynthia Vanier has been held without charge since Nov. 10 on accusations she led a plot to smuggle and shelter family of former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. ((Submitted by Betty MacDonald) )
Coincidentally, Vanier was in the process of buying a three-bedroom beach house when she was arrested last month. CBC News showed Peters a photograph of the home Vanier had placed an offer on, and asked whether it was one of the homes he was arranging to buy as a safe house for the Gadhafis.

"No, that's not one I was looking at," Peters insists, dismissing the entire connection.

"There are properties in Mexico [intended for al-Saadi Gadhafi] but I'm not going to confirm that they were bought or not."

Peters confirmed reports from Vanier's parents that she and her husband, Pierre Vanier, discussed selling their condo and moving to a larger home "months ago. They were retiring down there. That was their aim."

Peters says he has been speaking with Mexican authorities since Vanier's arrest. He says he has also co-operated fully with RCMP and CSIS in recent months about his relationship with the Gadhafis, but insists he has not spoken to Canadian authorities about his ties to Vanier.

"To be honest, if you knew the woman, she's a good lady," said Peters. "That ticks me off a little bit that they've got her as a scapegoat."

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