Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Canadian woman, three others to stand trial in failed Gaddafi smuggling plot

Mexican government says group's motive was "to make a large quantity of money"

In December, MGRR reported on an international plot to smuggle one of the sons of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, together with members of his immediate family, into Mexico (links below).

The conspiracy, discovered last year by intelligence services here, is said to have involved several foreign nationals, including a Canadian woman, a Dane and two Mexicans, all of whom were taken into custody. Mexican authorities refer to their breakup of the plan as Operación Huésped.

The plot suspects are in federal installations in Mexico, including Canadian Cynthia Ann Vanier, of Mount Forest, Ontario, who authorities say was the ringleader of the group. They have been under preventive detention since November, and have been charged with possession of false documents, human trafficking and organized crime activity. All the offenses carry heavy penalties. Yesterday (Jan. 31) a Mexican judge who completed a preliminary review of the case found sufficient evidence and issued formal arrest warrants for the four. The suspects will remain in jail pending further legal proceedings. Prosecutors emphasized that their motive was purely pecuniary.

The Canadian suspect is the owner of Vanier Consulting, which advertises "high-risk, unconventional mediation work" (see link below). Her Ontario counsel, well known civil rights attorney Paul Copeland, told CBC news last fall that Cynthia Vanier "had nothing to do with Saadi Gadhafi, or getting him out of Libya, or getting him to Mexico, or any human smuggling operation." He has not yet responded to today's announcement of the formal arrest warrants issued by a Mexican court.

Family members of Saadi Gadhafi (above) allegedly planned to buy property in Nayarit state on Mexico's Pacific coast, as well as in Puerto Vallarta, and an apartment in Mexico City to establish themselves here, according to the government. They intended to use falsified passports and entry documents.

The origins of the conspiracy may go back as far as May 2009, when hundreds of blank passports were stolen from Mexico's foreign affairs office. It's unclear if the conspirators arrested today were involved with that theft, or whether some of those passports ultimately ended up in their hands. What is certain, says the government, is that the conspirators made arrangements to rent private aircraft in Mexico City, which would fly first to Kosovo, then to Tunis and ultimately to Libya to pick up the Gaddafis. But when the pilots engaged by the foreign nationals learned of the plan, they backed out, said prosecutors.

Saadi Gaddafi never made it to Mexico. He fled Libya when the family regime collapsed and was later detained in Niger, where he remains. Saadi was a prominent businessman in the country during his father's 42 year reign. He also controlled military units during last year's popular uprising, which resulted in Muammar's capture and execution in October.

Curiously, Gaddafi himself was not charged with any offense, even though presumably he was actively involved with the plan. Under Mexican law the subject of a human trafficking plot is considered a victim and witness, and may not be prosecuted.

Alejandro Poiré, Mexico's Secretary of Governmental Affairs, said last fall that the break up of the conspiracy "demonstrated Mexico's capacity to safeguard its national territory."

Mexico breaks up Gaddafi smuggling plot:
Canadian woman behind Gaddafi plot advertised "Instant Response Team"
Hugo Chávez feels sorry for the late Muammar Gaddafi:


  1. This 'story' is getting fishier and fishier. Who sent the picture of the Guy Fawkes mask with the tip off to Mexican authorities? Why hasn't Peters stepped up, since it was originally his idea? Peter said Vanier was a 'dupe', so who is setting her up? Is the Can. gov't trying to head off the damming report on NATO committing 'atrocities'? Why can't her human rights lawyer Mr. Copeland see her personally? Just a few questions that need answering.

  2. Well, you've posed a lot of questions, but unfortunately I can't answer any of them. I know nothing about the "Guy Fawkes" mask of which you write, nor anything about attorney Copeland. The Mexican press (from which I've drawn all of my information concerning this case) has never mentioned those topics. But like you, I wish we had more details - the most important being, how did this group of alleged plotters get hooked up with Gaddafi in the first place, and how much money did they make (or were they supposed to make)?

    If Ms. Vanier was duped, as you suggest, I feel sorry for her, because she is facing decades in prison. Mexico is now in the process of implementing a modern criminal trial system (similar but not identical to that used in American, British and Canadian courts), but it's unclear yet whether Vanier will receive such a trial.

    As more information comes out on this case in the local press, I'll keep readers advised of developments.

  3. Here is an earlier article

    To answer your question Gary Peters, a private security contractor was the guy who got Saadi Gadafi to Niger. He was Ms. Vanier's security detail while she was in Libya on behalf of SNL-Lavalin, a huge engineering firm that has dozens of military contracts in Afghanistan and other mostly war-torn countries.

  4. So sorry, I meant to give you Peters background.