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In this Feb. 5, 2005 file photo, al-Saadi Gadhafi, the son of the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, arrives in Sydney, Australia. (AP/DAN PELED/AP/DAN PELED)
In this Feb. 5, 2005 file photo, al-Saadi Gadhafi, the son of the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, arrives in Sydney, Australia. (AP/DAN PELED/AP/DAN PELED)

international crime

Canadian held in Mexico faces charges in Gadhafi plot Add to ...

Cynthia Vanier, a Canadian being held in Mexico since last fall over an alleged plot to smuggle one of Moammar Gadhafi’s sons, is now formally facing charges.

Mexican officials have issued warrants for five people for attempted trafficking of undocumented people and organized crime, the Mexican attorney-general said in a statement on Wednesday.

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The statement did not name Ms. Vanier, but the details match her case and deputy attorney-general Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas spoke about her at a news conference.

Four of the five are also accused of counterfeiting, but the statement didn't identify them either.

A mediator from Mount Forest, Ont., about two hours northwest of Toronto, Ms. Vanier was arrested on Nov. 10 in Mexico City. She says she was there on a business trip and has complained that a female officer elbowed her in the kidneys so roughly she later urinated blood.

Mexican media reported that, at a news conference to present his department’s statement, Mr. Salinas acknowledged a staffer was punished after Ms. Vanier complained of physical abuse.

Mr. Salinas said two attempts were made to extract one of the late Libyan leader’s surviving sons, Saadi Gadhafi. The group wanted to spirit Mr. Gadhafi into Mexico by plane, but the pilot refused to make an illegal landing, according to the statement.

A second attempt was organized, with false papers and photo IDs, the statement said, adding that the group acquired a house near the resort of Puerta Vallarta and tried to buy an apartment at the St. Regis hotel in Mexico City, where Mr. Gadhafi would have initially stayed.

The statement said the case stemmed from a probe into the May, 2009, theft of 4,586 blank passports from the foreign affairs ministry.

Mr. Salinas added that Mexican authorities also received anonymous e-mail tips that led them to make arrests before the alleged second plane trip.

Prosecutors showed an image of the Guy Fawkes mask in connection with the tip. The image of the 17th-century English revolutionary has become a symbol of the Internet network Anonymous, which has claimed credit for hacking around the world.

Ms. Vanier and a female co-defendant have been taken to a penitentiary in Chetumal, in the state of Quintana Roo, while two men were sent to a prison in Veracruz, the statement said.

Ms. Vanier’s parents, Betty and John MacDonald, said the prison has no running water, and although Ms. Vanier has no money with her, she and other inmates are expected to buy their food. Her parents said they have not seen her since she was moved, but her husband has spoken with her on the phone.

“It’s absolutely awful there. She’s very scared, very frightened,” Ms. MacDonald said in a telephone interview from Mexico.

Mr. MacDonald said his daughter no longer has access to her blood-pressure medication and her condition has worsened under the strain of being incarcerated.

In a six-page attestation written in jail, Ms. Vanier said, “there was no evidence to support their accusations.”

She complained that she was denied adequate legal representation, and was intimidated during her interrogation. She said she was asked about her work and her trip to Libya, and said she was accused of being a terrorist.

After the female officer hit her with an elbow, “I could hardly breathe it hurt so much. I started to cry and they laughed at me,” Ms. Vanier wrote.

Ms. Vanier had travelled on a fact-finding trip to Libya with a Canadian-based security consultant who is a former bodyguard to Saadi Gadhafi.

While the defendants were not explicitly identified, Mexican officials previously identified them as Ms. Vanier and a Mexican woman, Gabriela Davila Huerta, and two men, Pierre Flensborg, a Danish national living in Houston, and Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto, a Mexican. A warrant is out for a fifth person who has not been identified.



With reports from Marina Jimenez and the Associated Press

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