A former Saudi spy chief living in exile in Toronto says the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, believes he is the source of the Central Intelligence Agency’s conclusion that the ruler ordered the assassination of Saudi dissident and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In court documents filed Thursday, lawyers for Saad Aljabri, who held a cabinet-rank intelligence post under deposed crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef (known as MBN), denied allegations that he embezzled billions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and he is urging a Canadian court to lift a freeze on his worldwide assets.
Mr. Aljabri, referred to as Dr. Saad, said in the court documents – prepared for a hearing on Friday – that he is a victim of a “politically driven attack” ordered by the Crown Prince, (known by his initials MBS), who is trying to portray him as a “criminal mastermind.”
In a civil suit filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in January, 10 subsidiaries of Tahakom Investments Co., owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, alleged Mr. Aljabri engaged in a massive fraud, totalling at least US$3.47-billion.
The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Aljabri has hidden funds taken from the companies in locations that include the British Virgin Islands, Malta, the United States and Canada.
Mr. Aljabri’s lawyers argue that the companies are state-owned entities and they were set up by Mr. bin Nayef, when he was crown prince, to carry out anti-terrorism activities.
They argue that Crown Prince bin Salman has tried to assassinate Mr. Aljabri, arrested two of his children in Saudi Arabia and is using the Canadian courts to accuse him of being a “fraudster who narrowly escaped justice by fleeing” his native country.
“Bin Salman perceives Dr. Saad to be a significant threat because of Dr. Saad’s close ties with the United States intelligence community, his long relationship with bin Nayef, and the highly sensitive information possessed by Dr. Saad,” the court documents said. “For instance, Dr. Saad understands that bin Salman believes Dr. Saad to be the source of the CIA’s conclusion that bin Salman was involved in the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October, 2018.”
Mr. Khashoggi, a critic of MBS, was strangled and dismembered by a 15-member team of Saudi assassins on Oct. 2, 2018, during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The former head of the CIA’s Middle East division has previously told The Globe that he believes the Saudi lawsuit should be treated with “great skepticism.”
“I ran the CIA’s Middle East division. I know all these people,” Daniel Hoffman said. “Those who know Dr. Saad can’t imagine that any of the allegations against Dr. Saad are true.”
Justice Cory Gilmore said last month she would not set aside the freezing order until she saw more evidence, and said the plaintiffs had presented “overwhelming evidence of fraud” to the court. The case resumes on Friday.
Mr. Aljabri’s lawyers say the Crown Prince is behind the legal action because he now controls the Saudi companies. They said the allegations are the same ones the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) rejected when the Saudis sought a worldwide wanted-persons notice for him, saying the allegations were politically motivated.
The lawyers said the companies the plaintiffs are citing as evidence of fraud – entities through which hundreds of millions of dollars flowed – were in fact used to fund clandestine counterterrorism operations, many of which were pursued in close partnership with Western governments. The lawyers argue this financing was “opaque by design.”
Mr. Aljabri’s legal filings said he fled for his life after the Saudi palace coup in 2017, and refused the Crown Prince’s request that he return. Since he fled to Canada, his life has been under threat and the RCMP have posted a protective team outside his Toronto home.
“In October, 2018, bin Salman sent a hit squad to Canada in an attempt to assassinate Dr. Saad, a plot that was thwarted when the assassins were refused entry to Canada,” the court filing said. “In May 2020, bin Salman ordered his men to renew their efforts to kill Dr. Saad.”
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