Intrigue, money, sex and violence. A royal couple in self-imposed exile on the banks of the Nile. All are key ingredients in an espionage tale with a rogue Canadian diplomat on a mysterious mission at its centre.
Gary Ogaick, a first secretary at the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, conducted an unauthorized spying operation in the Middle East to gather personal information about a wealthy Saudi Arabian prince and his wife, federal officials say.
Unbeknownst to his superiors, Mr. Ogaick paid thousands of dollars and offered even larger sums to the royal couple's bodyguards for insider information, federal officials and the former guards say.
His goal was to get information about the allegedly decadent and bizarre life of Prince Turki bin Abdel Aziz, brother of Saudi King Fahd, and his wife Princess Hend al Fassi. A trail of e-mails and evidence from bodyguards outlines a picture of the couple's strange life in lavish self-imposed exile in a Cairo hotel.
Mr. Ogaick was looking for evidence that Princess Hend entertained men in her Cairo hotel suite without the knowledge of her wealthy husband.
E-mails written by Mr. Ogaick from the Canadian embassy in Riyadh show he offered to cover the guards' expenses for videotape equipment. Mr. Ogaick, who was first secretary at the embassy, also promised a bonus for "anything that can prove she was entertaining men while [the prince]was out of it."
One guard, Mike Antinick of Boston, said in an interview that he handed over photocopies of security logs detailing late-night visits by men to Princess Hend's suite in the Cairo Ramses Hilton, where Prince Turki, Princess Hend and an entourage of more than 100 have lived since the mid-1990s.
"There would be entries where guys would go in with her at 11 o'clock at night and they would be in there until 11 or 12 o'clock the next day. And I can tell you of at least two guys I was basically procuring for her. One was supposedly an Egyptian police officer, but he wasn't," Mr. Antinick said.
Mr. Antinick was Princess Hend's personal security guard for about six months. "Anybody who came and went, I knew. . . . I knew of her deals. Unfortunately, I knew too much of what she was doing."
Mr. Antinick said Princess Hend would send him to buy gifts for one of her male visitors. "She was getting me to buy this guy gifts, get him jewellery made, get all of these kinds of things done, give him thousands and thousands of dollars."
The guards kept a log book at a security post outside her bedroom door, Mr. Antinick said. He said he passed on photocopies of the entries by commercial courier. "I didn't want to get caught with them. I could get in lot of shit. She had a lot of influence."
Tim Oliver, a former guard who worked at the main security desk by the elevators on Princess Hend's floor, said "She had a couple of boyfriends, actually. . . . Of course, the prince didn't know."
One of her callers was a singer, said another guard, Steve David of Oshawa, Ont. The man would arrive and "it was always under the assumption that she was just friends with him. But when she would go into a room and she would lock the door and they wouldn't come out for three or four days, or he doesn't anyway . . . you got to know something is going on."
Mr. Ogaick arranged three payments totaling $12,500 (U.S.) to cover expenses for the espionage operation, including the purchase of electronic surveillance equipment, said another guard, Marc Lemieux of Barrie, Ont.
There would be "lots of $$" if the guards could get video proof the princess had male visitors, Mr. Ogaick wrote in an e-mail to Mr. Lemieux from the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
But the guards never got bedroom videos.
The diplomat's motives are unclear. Mr. Ogaick, who was the first secretary in charge of administration, suggests in his e-mails that he is working on behalf of a senior member of the Saudi establishment who is concerned about the king's brother.
Now retired from the foreign service, Mr. Ogaick refused to discuss the case. Contacted by telephone in Dubai, where he has business interests, he said "I'm not going to tell you anything about anything."
He referred all questions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, saying "they are the people who prepared to be involved."
Asked if he had run an intelligence operation for Canada or for Saudi authorities, Mr. Ogaick said "I wasn't running anything for anybody." He then hung up.
Officials in the personnel office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa say Mr. Ogaick was operating alone, without the knowledge of his superiors.
The officials said Mr. Ogaick's actions violated the government's conduct code. He cannot be disciplined, however, because the department learned about the activities after he left the foreign service in early 2001.
Mr. Ogaick repeatedly communicated with the security guards through his department e-mail account. He also held three clandestine meetings with them in Cairo, the guards say.
The case was referred to the RCMP, but the Mounties did not have grounds for criminal investigation, a department official said.
In e-mail exchanges with Mr. Lemieux in early 1999, Mr. Ogaick says his Saudi contact needed information "right away, if not sooner" about Princess Hend's male callers and the health and well-being of Prince Turki.
Mr. Ogaick urged Mr. Lemieux, who by then had quit his job as a guard, to get daily reports from security guards who were still working in the hotel.
Mr. Ogaick wrote: "We need to discuss a plan to get someone on the inside now! To get current info. . . . This is VERY, VERY urgent. I cannot talk to you on the phone for obvious reasons, just know things will happen quickly if we can get this info."
In early April of 1999, Mr. Ogaick wrote to Mr. Lemieux that the guards inside the hotel need not copy tapes the princess had made if it seemed too dangerous. But by providing information "to us on a daily or weekly basis they will be well looked after, as you will be acting as a contact in this endeavour."
Without revealing the identity of his Saudi contact, Mr. Ogaick said he understood that "this situation should be resolved within three months," with Prince Turki's return to Saudi Arabia.
"So any help they [the guards]can provide in getting info would be more than compensated for," Mr. Ogaick wrote. "This is just to let you know that they will pay for info and pay well. . . . More info, more pay, it is as simple as that."
Mr. Lemieux reported that a guard on the inside was willing to help.
"Can you negotiate a price for this info," Mr. Ogaick asked, "i.e. so much a day or something like that. Can he get or copy any videos?"
The diplomat promised to pay for video-copying equipment and a laptop computer so the insider could communicate by e-mail.
Mr. Ogaick said his contact needed "proof that 17 had men in her room. Videos, instructions, copies of notes, audiotapes etc. anything which can prove she was entertaining men while 15 was out of it."
(Code numbers were assigned to the royal family members based on the number of their hotel suites. Princess Hend was 17 and Prince Turki was 15.)
"Pull out all the stops. . . . Use all your resources on this one, it is the BIG ONE!!!," Mr. Ogaick wrote.
If the guards could get incriminating video tape, Mr. Ogaick said he would travel to Cairo, Paris, Montreal, London "or anywhere else to take it off your hands."
Attempts to interview Prince Turki and Princess Hend for this article were unsuccessful.
According to six former security guards, Prince Turki, in his late 60s, and Princess Hend, in her 40s, live on the top three floors of the Cairo hotel overlooking the Nile.
The family is fabulously wealthy, the guards say. Prince Turki kept bags of U.S. currency, in large denominations, beside his bed.
Mr. Lemieux said he once complained that it was tedious to count the money in a cardboard box full of $100 bills. The total was more than $7-million.
Egyptian opposition politicians have called for the family's expulsion from the country after a series of scandals, including Princess Hend's conviction in a Cairo court two years ago for failing to pay a jewellery bill.
The couple and their retinue have been at the centre of allegations of mistreatment of their servants and strong-arm behaviour by their security guards.
One of their personal waiters was injured in a fall while trying to escape from the upper floors of the hotel by tying bedsheets together, the BBC reported in November of 1998. Three other servants escaped.
The Cairo newspaper Al-Ahram reported that in February of 2000, Princess Hend was sentenced in absentia by an Egyptian court to a one-year prison term for failing to pay a $2.5-million (U.S.) debt.
BBC Cairo correspondent Heba Saleh reported in February of 2001 that Princess Hend continually ignored court summonses.
Former security guards told The Globe and Mail that servants were confined to the hotel for weeks, and rare trips outside were allowed only when the servants were accompanied by guards.
The waiters and maids were treated "really badly," Mr. Oliver said. "They didn't get to go out. They didn't get to make phone calls."
Another guard, Rick Marlow of Kingston, Ont., said he saw servants physically abused by Princess Hend, who often took her shoe off and beat them. "She would do that in the blink of an eye."
Mr. Marlow said 12 maids lived in two hotel rooms.
Mr. Lemieux said he remembers the time several of Princess Hend's guards beat three waiters on the soles of their feet.
"We were at the post outside the room and they were dragged in. I followed them in because I didn't know what was going on. I really didn't want to stand there and watch it," Mr. Lemieux said. "I walked out, but it went on for a considerable period of time."
Several of the guards said Princess Hend kept Prince Turki under 24-hour electronic surveillance. Nine video cameras and several microphones were hidden throughout his suite.
"Everything that was in his suite was videotaped or microphoned, which he wouldn't have known about," Mr. Oliver said.
If the prince would leave his suite for a period of time, Princess Hend would send her staff of electronic technicians in to install more cameras or microphones, Mr. Oliver said.
Princess Hend had a set of monitors in her own bedroom and she watched what went on in Prince Turki's suite "while she was getting her hair and nails done," Steve David said.
"She knew everything [Prince Turki]was doing when he was awake." Mr. Marlow said. The guards said Princess Hend often entertained in her own suite or elsewhere in the hotel when her husband was asleep. "When she was having these all-night parties, she was inviting these famous singers from Lebanon," Mr. Antinick said.
About 35 security guards and other foreign staff members, including nine Canadians, quit three years ago when one of the guards, an Austrian, was allegedly handcuffed and beaten with a coat hanger by Princess Hend.
The Austrian, Andreas Hoffman, signed an affidavit attesting to the beating.
"When I saw him that night he had red welts on his face. It was quite evident to me they weren't just making it up," Mr. Oliver said.