It seemed to have it all: sun, sea, sand, a glamorous social circuit, and a vibrant criminal underworld where dubious characters with ill-gotten fortunes could quietly while away the rest of their days.
Little wonder that Saadi Gaddafi, son of the late Libyan leader Muammar, fancied leaving his troubles behind and disappearing to Punta Mita, an upscale seaside resort on a peninsula just outside Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.
As a would-be Hollywood tycoon, who before Libya’s revolution was attempting to launch a film production company, Saadi would have been at home among A-list crowd who holiday there. Recent visitors have included Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, and Kate Hudson.
But it wasn’t to be. Today, Mexico’s government announced that it had foiled an elaborate international plot to smuggle the flamboyant playboy into their country using a false name, and faked identity documents.
The plan involved at least two Mexicans, one Canadian, and a Dane, Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire told reporters. Several arrests were made by police in Mexico City in early November, and four suspects are currently being held.
Saadi Gaddafi, the Colonel’s third son, never made it across the Atlantic. He fled Libya in September, for the West African country of Niger, which granted him asylum on “humanitarian” grounds. He is currently under house arrest there, while Interpol attempt to secure his extradition.
Punta Mita, on the north end of the Bahia de Banderas, boasts world-class surfing and high-end hotels and restaurants. Poire revealed that Gaddafi paid a team of fixers to fly around the region, opening bank accounts and buying at least one multi-million dollar property.
“The large economic resources which this criminal organisation has, or had, allowed them to contract private flights," Poire told a news conference. "The activities of the criminal organisation in our country included the falsification of official documents, the opening of bank accounts with false documents, the purchase of real estate that were intended, among other things, to serve as a residence for the Gaddafi family at a house located in the zone of the Bahia de Banderas."
Acting on a tip-off, Mexican authorities began monitoring the group in mid-September, and made arrests four weeks ago. Its alleged leader is Cynthia Ann Vanier, a Canadian security consultant who has previously worked closely with the Gaddafi regime.
Poire said that Vanier has been charged with falsifying documents, alleging that she “was the direct contact with the Gaddafi family and the leader of the group, and presumably was the person in charge of the finances of the operation."
Also in custody are two business partners of Gregory Gillispie, a former US Marine who is based in California, and who supplied an aircraft that recently flew Ms Vanier to Libya. He told Canada’s National Post newspaper, which broke news of the elaborate plot, that there was “absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing” against his colleagues.
Saadi Gaddafi, 38, is the third of of eight children of the late Libyan dictator. Of his siblings, brother Muhammad and sister Aisha are thought to be in Algeria, brother Saif al-Arab has been killed in an air-strike, and brother Saif al-Islam was captured last week.
A former professional footballer, Saadi captained the country’s national team and was briefly signed to the Italian club Perugia, before failing a drug test. He later launched a business career and attempted to start a Hollywood production company.
Interpol has requested his arrest on suspicion of helping the Gaddafi family steal billions of dollars from the Libyan people, and the UN has frozen his assets. Despite having refused to turn himself in, Gaddafi’s lawyer, Nick Kaufman, told Reuters: “he is fully respecting the restraints placed on him presently by the international community."Reuse content