MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico uncovered and stopped an international plot to smuggle late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi into the country using fake names and false papers, authorities said on Wednesday.
Four people were arrested on November 10 and 11, they said, over an elaborate plan to settle Saadi Gaddafi, who is now in Niger, and his family on Mexico’s Pacific coast using forged documents, safe houses and private flights.
Mexican officials got a tip about the network - which included Mexican, Danish and Canadian members - in September, Interior Minister Alejandro Poire said.
In preparation for the family’s arrival, the criminal ring bought properties around Mexico, created fake identities and opened bank accounts with the aim of settling them near Bahia de Banderas, home to the popular tourist destination Puerto Vallarta.
The network arranged for private flights to smuggle in the family and established identities under assumed names, including Moah Bejar Sayed and Amira Sayed Nader.
The plotters themselves used a network of flights between Mexico, the United States, Canada, Kosovo and the Middle East to plan the route and organize the logistics for Saadi Gaddafi’s arrival, Poire said.
“Mexican officials ... succeeded in avoiding this risk, they dismantled the international criminal network which was attempting this and they arrested those presumed responsible,” he told a news conference.
A Canadian woman, Cynthia Ann Vanier, was the ringleader of the plot and directly in touch with the Gaddafi family, Mexican authorities said.
Also arrested was a Danish man, Pierre Christian Flensborg, who authorities said was in charge of logistics, and two Mexicans, Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto and Gabriela Davila Huerta, also known as de Cueto.
Saadi Gaddafi’s lawyer Nick Kaufman said his client was still in Niger, where he fled as his father’s 42-year rule crumbled in August. Niger has said he would remain in the West African nation until a United Nations travel ban is lifted.
“He is fully respecting the restraints placed on him presently by the international community,” Kaufman told Reuters.
Like many senior members of the Gaddafi regime, Saadi, a businessman and former professional soccer player, was banned from traveling and had his assets frozen by a U.N. Security Council resolution when violence erupted earlier this year.