The crown prince of Saudi Arabia sent a hit squad to Canada in an effort to hunt down and kill a former top intelligence official who knows too much, a civil suit filed Thursday in court in the United States asserts.
The 106-page unproven complaint, which reads like a spy thriller, accuses Mohammed bin Salman of orchestrating attempts to silence Saad Aljabri, a permanent resident of Canada.
The document describes Aljabri as a 39-year veteran of the government of Saudi Arabia with expertise in national security and counterterrorism.
As such, it says, few people know more about bin Salman than he does, including his allegedly corrupt business dealings and creation of a team of personal mercenaries called the Tiger Squad.
Those mercenaries, the suit states, were behind the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.
In addition, Aljabri says he had a close working relationship with American intelligence over the decades. He is, he claims, uniquely positioned to threaten bin Salman’s standing in Washington.
“Few places hold more sensitive, humiliating and damning information about defendant bin Salman than the mind and memory of Dr. Saad — except perhaps the recordings Dr. Saad made in anticipation of his killing,” Aljabri asserts.
“That is why defendant bin Salman wants him dead, and why defendant bin Salman has worked to achieve that objective over the last three years.”
None of the allegations in Aljabri’s claim for damages in United States District Court for the District of Columbia has been tested.
The statement of claim describes how the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) allegedly denied entry at a Canadian airport to the group of would-be assassins in October 2018.
It says each member of the group approached separate kiosks as they attempted to clear customs and claimed not to know one another.
“On information and belief, CBSA officers quickly became suspicious of the Tiger Squad Defendants — the majority of whom were attempting to enter the country on tourist visas — and sent them to secondary screening,” alleged the legal document. “Even when assembled as a group, they continued to deny their knowledge of the other Tiger Squad Defendants.”
CBSA officers then searched their luggage and found a group photo that showed some of the travellers together as well as some “forensic tools.”
“On information and belief, the Tiger Squad Defendants—who were not prepared for this unexpectedly thorough investigation—became panicked and summoned an attorney from the Embassy of Saudi Arabia,” alleged the document.
The statement of claim also alleges that someone overheard the attorney advising the group to falsely claim they had travelled to Canada to prepare for an upcoming visit by a VIP delegation.
It also said that the border agents wound up denying entry to all but one of the men, who was allowed to enter Canada on a diplomatic passport.
The CBSA declined to respond to questions about whether it could confirm any of the allegations, referring Global News to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who also declined to comment on the details.
“While we cannot comment on specific allegations currently before the courts, we are aware of incidents in which foreign actors have attempted to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and those living in Canada,” he said on Thursday.
“It is completely unacceptable and we will never tolerate foreign actors threatening Canada’s national security or the safety of our citizens and residents. Canadians can be confident that our security agencies have the skills and resources necessary to detect, investigate and respond to such threats.”
Blair continued: “We will always take the necessary action to keep Canadians and those on Canadian soil safe and we invite people to report any such threats to law enforcement authorities.”
He added that the government continues to condemn the murder of Khashoggi and continues to call for a “credible and independent international investigation.”
Officials with the Saudi embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment.
Aljabri, a dual citizen of Malta and Saudi Arabia, fled the kingdom in 2017, first to Turkey and then secretly to Toronto, where he now lives.
Bin Salman repeatedly ordered him to return home and threatened via instant messaging to “use all available means” and to “take measures that would be harmful to you,” the complaint states.
“We shall certainly reach you,” bin Salman allegedly insisted.
The suit also names several top Saudi officials along with the names of the alleged Tiger Squad members, who arrived at Toronto Pearson Airport on tourist visas in mid-October 2018, less than two weeks after Khashoggi was murdered.
“Bin Salman in fact dispatched a hit squad to North America to kill Dr. Saad,” the claim asserts.
Aljabri claims a former colleague, Bijad Alharbi, showed up at his Toronto telecommunications company office posing as an investor and tried to persuade him to go to Turkey to visit family. Although he refused, Alharbi had succeeded in pinpointing Aljabri’s location so the Tiger Squad could find him, the suit states.
“Bin Salman now plans to send agents directly through the United States to enter Canada by land and, once and for all, eliminate Dr. Saad,” he says.
As a pressure tactic, the claim asserts bin Salman has ordered the detention and kidnapping of Aljabri’s family members. Two of his children “disappeared” in mid-March and other relatives have been arrested, detained and tortured. He also says Saudi agents hacked his smartphones and froze his bank accounts.
Bin Salman took power in Saudi Arabia after then-crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef was ousted in 2017. Human rights groups accuse him of bloody ruthlessness, including the killing of Khashoggi, whose body has never been found.
The lawsuit also names Bader Alasaker, the head of bin Salman’s private office. It accuses him of recruiting, training and bribing U.S.-based employees of Twitter to obtain confidential information about critics of bin Salman in the United States, now subject of criminal proceedings in the U.S.
Aljabri’s American lawyers would not discuss the case, saying they would make arguments in court.
with files from Mike De Souza, Global News