The Mexican government said Wednesday that it had broken up a plot to smuggle into Mexico one of the sons of the former Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and hide him and his family at a Pacific beach resort.
Alejandro Poiré, the interior minister, said the elaborate plan had been uncovered by Mexican intelligence agents and had resulted in the arrest of several people, including two Mexicans, a Canadian and a Dane.
Mr. Poiré said Saadi el-Qaddafi, who fled to Niger in September as his father’s government crumbled, as well as his family were to receive false documents identifying them as Mexican.
The announcement provided yet another odd twist in the life of the younger Qaddafi, 38, who has trekked across the globe veering from an ill-fated career in professional Italian soccer, to Hollywood producer, to would-be peace negotiator as his homeland spun out of control.
Mr. Poiré spoke hours after a Canadian newspaper, The National Post, published a detailed article on the plan to bring Mr. Qaddafi to Mexico, saying a Canadian security company had helped in the arrangements to house him in a “multimillion-dollar refuge” favored by celebrities at Punta Mita near Puerto Vallarta in Nayarit State.
Mr. Poiré said the plotters used private flights in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Kosovo and several Middle Eastern countries to coordinate and plan Mr. Qaddafi’s journey. Safe houses had been acquired in Mexico, and bank accounts had been opened with forged documents. He added that the Qaddafis were to use false names, including Daniel Bejar Hanan, Amira Sayed Nader, Moah Bejar Sayed and Sofia Bejar Sayed.
It was unclear where the money for the safe houses and flights would come from; the United Nations froze the family’s assets, and the Mexican government said Mr. Qaddafi faced an Interpol warrant related to his role leading military units fighting the Libyan uprising.
Mexico said it had detected the plot on Sept. 6 and made arrests on Nov. 10 and 11, calling the operation to break up the conspiracy Operation Guest. The authorities identified Cynthia Ann Vanier, a Canadian, as the leader of the group and the direct contact with the Qaddafi family. She was in charge of financial arrangements, the authorities said. Others in custody included Gabriela Dávila Huerta, who also used the surname de Cueto, a Mexican with United States residency, who was accused of being a link to document forgers; Pierre Christian Flensborg, a Danish citizen, was said to be handling logistics; and José Luis Kennedy Prieto, a Mexican citizen, was in charge of getting false documents, the authorities said.
Paul Copeland, a lawyer for Ms. Vanier in Toronto, confirmed that she had gone to Libya on what he described as a fact-finding trip and that she had hired Gary Peters, a former Australian soldier who is the chief executive of Can/Aust Security and Investigations International in Cambridge, Ontario. But Mr. Copeland said Ms. Vanier did not have anything to do with smuggling Mr. Qaddafi out of Libya. “My understanding is that she did not meet with anybody in the Qaddafi family,” he said.
Mr. Peters told The National Post that he was involved in smuggling Saadi el-Qaddafi to Niger and that Mr. Qaddafi had hoped to go to Mexico.
Mr. Peters declined a request for an interview. But he told The Associated Press that Mr. Qaddafi had planned to enter Mexico legitimately and said the allegation that false documents were being prepared was news to him. “It wasn’t smuggling,” Mr. Peters said. “I don’t understand how they’re saying it was smuggling.”
Mr. Qaddafi is now believed to be under house arrest in Niger.
Mr. Poiré did not say how Mexico uncovered the plot, only casting it as a success on behalf of Mexican intelligence agents. “Avoiding the illegal entry of Saadi Qaddafi to our country constitutes, beyond a doubt, another sign of the capability of Mexican institutions to safeguard the integrity of our national territory,” he said.
Still, security analysts doubted Mexico had worked alone and suggested that American and other foreign intelligence services probably played an important role. The American Embassy here referred comment to the Mexican authorities.
Alberto Islas, a security consultant in Mexico who closely follows law enforcement agencies, said Mexico, “due to a lack of basic tradecraft skills,” did not have the capability to single-handedly unravel such a plot with threads around the world.
This is the second time in the past two months that the country has sought to celebrate a triumph in international investigations. In October, it announced its role in denying entry and returning to the United States an Iranian-American man charged with seeking the help of drug cartels to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington