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Saudi companies file Canadian lawsuit against Saad al-Jabri in embezzlement allegations

Campaign for Jabri's family says lawsuit is part of Saudi crown prince's 'desperate attempt' to distract world from Riyadh's human rights abuses
Mohammed bin Salman has centralised power and targeted any and all perceived foes and potential opponents since he outmanoeuvred more senior rivals in 2017 to become crown prince
Mohammed bin Salman has centralised power and targeted any and all perceived foes since he outmanoeuvred more senior rivals in 2017 to become crown prince (AFP)
By in
Washington

Ten Saudi state-run companies filed a lawsuit in Canada against former intelligence operative Saad al-Jabri, alleging he embezzled billions of dollars in a development that deepens a battle between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the country's former spymaster.

The companies, owned by Tahakom Investments - a subsidiary of the Saudi sovereign foreign wealth fund chaired by bin Salman, also known as MBS - filed the lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court in Canada, where Jabri currently lives in exile.

The filing claims that Jabri colluded with his former boss, former Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and received $1.2bn in misappropriated funds, with bin Nayef allegedly transferring at least $55m to Jabri in illicit payments.

On Friday, the Canadian court ordered a worldwide asset freeze against Jabri and demanded he disclose his assets, according to court documents seen by the Wall Street Journal.

"While Al Jabri's hands were hidden, his fingerprints are everywhere," the lawsuit alleges.

'We welcome opportunity to face off against MBS'

The legal filing contains multiple allegations of Jabri's alleged "ill-gotten gains", including 26 properties in Saudi Arabia that are valued in total at more than $43m, as well as two five-star hotels in Boston and several properties in Canada.

The lawsuit alleges that Jabri transferred two properties in Geneva and Vienna, a combined value of $400m, from a Tahakom subsidiary to an entity that he controlled.

Still, the centre of the allegations are the Saudi companies' claim that they were defrauded by Jabri, who they say misspent $11bn in state funds while working at the Interior Ministry under bin Nayef. The companies say he funnelled the money - meant for counterterrorism activities - to himself and his family.

'The family will fight the recycled corruption allegations vigorously and are confident they will succeed'

- Campaign for Jabri family

A campaign for Jabri's family said on Wednesday that the lawsuit was part of MBS's "desperate attempts to distract the world from his grotesque litany of human rights crimes".

The campaign said in a statement to Middle East Eye that the family "welcomes the opportunity to face off against MBS in neutral judicial forums". 

"The family will fight the recycled corruption allegations vigorously and are confident they will succeed in dismissing them as they did in 2018 with the Interpol," the statement said, referring to a request by MBS to Interpol to extradite Jabri, which was rejected.

As first reported by MEE, MBS has spent years trying to coax Jabri into returning to the kingdom. In March, authorities detained two of his adult children and his brother, prompting accusations by relatives and US officials that they were being held hostage to secure Jabri's return.

'Tiger Squad'

Jabri is a former Saudi intelligence official who had deep ties with the CIA and had been a key go-between for Western spy agencies and the Saudi intelligence apparatus. 

He worked closely under Bin Nayef, who in 2017 was ousted, put under house arrest, and replaced by his cousin bin Salman as the country's crown prince. Jabri fled the country before the palace coup and landed in Canada in 2018, where he currently resides. 

A source familiar with his situation previously told MEE that Jabri's loyalty to bin Nayef and his decades-spanning knowledge of the inner workings of the kingdom's powerful Interior Ministry had made him a target of MBS.

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Since deposing bin Nayef, MBS has centralised power and targeted any and all perceived foes and potential opponents. He has arrested several members of the royal family, including Prince Faisal bin Abdullah al-Saud, a son of the late King Abdullah.

The filing comes months after Jabri filed a lawsuit against MBS, claiming a 50 person hit squad, known as the "Tiger Squad" was sent to kill him in Canada.

The incident allegedly took place in October 2018 - just two weeks after the murder of Saudi journalist and Middle East Eye columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

MEE first reported that after fleeing Riyadh, Jabri was "chased" by Saudi authorities who were willing "to do anything to get him back".

Last month, the Washington Post reported that the Trump-controlled State Department was considering granting MBS sovereign immunity in that case.