Let’s just say it’s getting harder not to paint Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a James Bond villain — a man who allegedly enjoys eliminating his rivals in spectacular fashion.
If not for alert Canadian customs officers, things may have taken a deadly turn.
Court documents filed in Washington, D.C. this week, accuse the Crown Prince of sending a hit-squad to Canada in order to kill a former Saudi intelligence official, BBC News reported.
The failed plan to kill Saad al-Jabri was soon after the brutal sanctioned murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, court documents allege.
Jabri, a veteran of the government of Saudi Arabia, fled into exile three years ago. He has been under private security protection in Toronto since, BBC reported.
The alleged plot failed after Canadian border agents became suspicious of the hit-squad as they attempted to enter the country at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, court documents say.
Jabri, 61, was for years the key go-between for Britain’s MI6 and other Western spy agencies in Saudi Arabia, BBC reported.
The 106-page unproven complaint accuses the crown prince of attempting to murder Jabri in order to silence him.
Jabri says this is down to him possessing “damning information.” The document says this includes alleged corruption and overseeing a team of personal mercenaries labelled the “Tiger Squad.”
Members of the infamous Tiger Squad were believed to be involved in the brutal murder of dissident journalist Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, it says.
“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,” the document says.
“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.”
After fleeing Saudi Arabia ahead of a purge by the all-powerful crown prince in 2017, Jabri fled to Canada via Turkey, BBC reported.
He alleges Mohammed bin Salman made repeated efforts to return him to Saudi Arabia, even sending private messages, including one that read: “We shall certainly reach you.”
Then, less than two weeks after the murder of Khashoggi, Jabri says the Tiger Squad travelled to Canada with the intention of killing him, BBC reported.
“Carrying two bags of forensic tools, and complete with forensic personnel experienced with the clean-up of crime scenes — including an instructor in the exact same criminal evidence department as the forensic specialist who dismembered Khashoggi with a bone saw — the Tiger Squad Defendants attempted to enter Canada covertly, traveling on tourist visas and seeking to avert the detection of Canadian border security by entering through separate kiosks,” the lawsuit alleges.
However, Canadian border agents “quickly became suspicious” of the group and refused them entry after interviewing them, it says.
“Bin Salman in fact dispatched a hit squad to North America to kill Dr Saad,” the claim asserts.
Jabri is accusing the crown prince of attempted extrajudicial killing in violation of the US Torture Victim Protection Act and in breach of international law.
The Saudi government did not respond to a request for comment, BBC reported.
Canada’s Federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said he couldn’t comment on the specific case but said the government was “aware of incidents in which foreign actors have attempted to monitor, intimidate or threaten Canadians and those living in Canada.
“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,” he said.
Several intelligence agencies, including the CIA, have concluded that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s killing — accusations that Riyadh has staunchly denied.
For years Jabri was the right-hand man to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was widely credited with defeating the al-Qaeda insurgency. He was also the linchpin in all Saudi Arabia’s relations with the “Five Eyes” (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) intelligence agencies, BBC reported.
A quiet-spoken man with a doctorate in artificial intelligence from Edinburgh University, Jabri rose to the rank of cabinet minister and held a major-general’s rank.
But in 2015 everything changed. King Abdullah died and his half-brother Salman ascended to the throne, appointing his young and untested son Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, as defence minister.
In 2017 Mohammed bin Salman carried out a bloodless palace coup with his father’s blessing. He effectively usurped the next in line to the throne, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, becoming crown prince himself.