Cynthia Vanier, a mediator whose corporate maxim is “building bridges from conflict to peace,” has worked everywhere, from the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario’s far north to sunny resort towns on Mexico’s coast.
But now, the independent consultant finds herself jailed as the suspected ringleader of an international conspiracy – an alleged plan to spirit one of Moammar Gadhafi’s surviving sons away from the Libyan conflict and into a peaceable party town just north of Puerto Vallarta.
Mexican authorities broke their silence about the case Wednesday, as they announced the November arrest of the Canadian citizen with great fanfare.
Ms. Vanier was “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,” Interior Minister Alejandro Poire told reporters at a press conference.
He said that as the war swung against the Gadhafi family, a group of conspirators from the West jetted between Libya and Mexico in hopes of getting Saadi Gadhafi away from Libya with some of his close relatives.
“The activities of the criminal organization in our country included the falsification of official documents, the opening of bank accounts with false documents [and]the purchase of real estate,” Mr. Poire said.
Ms. Vanier’s lawyer, Paul Copeland, would not comment on the case.
Canadian corporate records show that Ms. Vanier started her namesake company with her husband, Pierre, a couple of years ago in Mount Forest, a small village about 100 kilometres south of Owen Sound.
Vanier Consulting’s website speaks to the firm’s “unique practice.” Ms. Vanier writes that she is adept at “ransom negotiations,” but that her focus has been on settling disputes arising within aboriginal communities.
In 2009, for example, she went to the James Bay community of Attawapiskat to find housing alternatives for residents whose homes were condemned after a sewage failure. (The same community is now making headlines for its housing crisis.) This past September, she spoke to a Toronto conference about how she resolves disputes.
“She understood the issues, she understood the players and gave a reasonable presentation,” said Aaron Detlor, a lawyer who attended. “I wouldn’t say she’s a quote-unquote mainstay of the first nations consultancy industry.”
In October, Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed in Libya by rebel forces. Most of the dictator’s sons have also been captured or killed. Last month Mexican police quietly arrested Ms. Vanier and three other men – two Mexicans and a Danish national – alleging that they were all part of the scheme to bring Saadi Gadhafi to Mexico.
With reports from Tu Thanh Ha and Associated Press