January 18, 2019 4:01 pm
Updated: January 20, 2019 10:14 am

Cape Breton community questions how Saudi man facing sexual assault charges allegedly left Canada

Federal officials are looking at how a Saudi man living in Nova Scotia may have fled Canada while facing sexual assault charges, along with other charges and unpaid fines. As Ross Lord reports, it's suspected the Saudi embassy in Canada may have played a role, and helped Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi slip through the net.

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At Cape Breton University, where more than 1,000 international students have arrived to study, it’s the alleged departure of one student that has authorities puzzled.

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi, a 28-year-old student from Saudi Arabia, graduated with a business degree in 2017. But, not before running into a lot of trouble.

He reportedly piled up $68,000 in motor vehicle violations and had his cars repeatedly impounded.

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“He’d come in, leave my door open when he’d walk in here,” said Jessica Hines, who manages a Sydney, N.S. towing company.

“He’d come in snapping his fingers at me, yelling, cursing.”

READ MORE: Saudi man facing sexual assault charges in Nova Scotia ‘fled’ after embassy posted bail

Alzoabi is also charged with dangerous driving and assaulting a man with a car.

In an unrelated case, he’s charged with assaulting, sexually assaulting, and forcibly confining a woman.

But before he could be brought to trial, Alzoabi is alleged to have disappeared.

According to court documents, his lawyer says Alzoabi “fled the country some time ago,” even though he’d handed over his passport in order to receive bail.

Helen Morrison, executive director of the Cape Breton Transition House Association, says the case sends a horrible message to victims.

“For it to just all fall apart, and be almost up in the air about where it’s gonna go from here, how frustrating that must be and how devaluing that must be for that person,” she said.

The Saudi kingdom posted a large portion of Alzoabi’s bail.

Halifax immigration lawyer Lee Cohen suspects Saudi Arabia helped him skip the country, as happened with one of his clients two months ago.

“The only way he could get to Saudi Arabia from Canada without a passport is to be issued a travel document by Saudi Arabia,” he said.

The manoeuvre is thought to have been used in several other cases in North America, including a Saudi man charged with sexually assaulting eight-year-old Nova Scotia twins in 2007.

The Saudi embassy in Ottawa has not responded to Global News’ requests for comment.

But analysts call such manoeuvres a breach of international law.

Adding to the mystery is a question police and prosecutors are unable to answer for Global News: how long do they think Alzoabi has been gone?

Only now, more than a month after they learned he was missing, is Cape Breton Regional Police taking steps to add Alzoabi to the Interpol Watch List.

If he is indeed in Saudi Arabia, it’s important to note the kingdom and Canada don’t have an extradition agreement, which would be used to bring him back to Canada for trial.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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