Niger? Algeria? Saadi would rather flee to Mexico...

Police foil audacious plot to smuggle Gaddafi's playboy son to Lady Gaga's Pacific hideaway

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It seemed to have everything: sun, sea, sand, a glamorous social circuit – and a criminal underworld where dubious characters with ill-gotten fortunes could quietly while away the rest of their days.

No wonder Saadi Gaddafi, 38, the playboy son of the late Libyan dictator Muammar, fancied fleeing to Punta Mita on Mexico's Pacific coast.

As a would-be Hollywood tycoon – before Libya's revolution he was trying to launch a film production company – he would have been at home among the A-list crowd who holiday there.

Punta Mita boasts world-class surfing and high-end hotels and restaurants. Recent visitors include Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen and Kate Hudson.

But it wasn't to be. Mexico announced yesterday that it had foiled a plot to smuggle him in using fake papers. The plan involved at least two Mexicans, a Canadian and a Dane, the Interior Secretary, Alejandro Poire Romero, said.

Several arrests were made in Mexico City in early November and four suspects are currently being held.

Saadi – the third of Gaddafi's eight children – never made it across the Atlantic. He fled his country in September for neighbouring Niger, which granted him asylum on "humanitarian" grounds. He is now under house arrest there as Interpol tries to extradite him.

Mr Poire revealed Saadi paid fixers to open bank accounts in Mexico and buy at least one multimillion-dollar property. "The activities of the criminal organisation included falsification of official documents, opening bank accounts with false documents and the purchase of real estate intended, among other things, to serve as a residence for the Gaddafi family," the minister said.

Acting on a tip-off, local authorities began monitoring the group in September.

Its alleged leader is Cynthia Ann Vanier, a Canadian security consultant who worked with the Gaddafi regime.

Mr Poire said she has been charged with falsifying papers and alleged she was "the direct contact with the Gaddafi family, leader of the group, and presumably in charge of the finances". Also in custody are two business partners of Gregory Gillispie, an ex-US Marine based in California, who supplied an aircraft that recently flew Ms Vanier to Libya.

He told Canada's National Post newspaper that there was "no evidence of wrongdoing" against his colleagues.

Of Saadi's siblings, brother Muhammad and sister Aisha are thought to be in Algeria, brother Saif al-Arab was killed in an air strike, and another, Saif al-Islam, was captured last month.

A former professional footballer, Saadi captained Libya's national team and was briefly signed to the Italian club Perugia before failing a drugs test.

He later launched a business career. Interpol has requested his arrest on suspicion of helping his family to steal billions of dollars of Libyan state funds. The UN has frozen his assets.

Despite refusing to surrender, he was "fully respecting the restraints placed on him by the international community", his lawyer, Nick Kaufman, said.