A former top Saudi spymaster now living in exile with extensive assets in Canada and the United States is embroiled in a long-running legal fight with Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) which threatens to expose US state secrets. He was previously a spy chief seen as fiercely loyal to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN), who is now in Saudi detention after being deposed, facilitating the rise of his rival MbS.
Ex-Saudi intelligence officer Saad al-Jabri already years ago (in 2018) alleged MbS ordered a hit squad to assassinate him while in Canada – an attempted said to have been thwarted by Canadian authorities, but now a complex pair of civil cases has seen the US government intervene to argue it can’t be compelled to divulge sensitive or possibly classified information as part of the suits.
What al-Jabri knowns, or what he’s willing to use to fight the kingdom as it goes after his assets abroad, could prove deeply embarrassing for both the Saudis and Americans, and potentially touches on covert operations the two allies have cooperated on.
Amid the ongoing feud with the Saudi government, two Saudi state-run companies recently joined the fight against Aljabri, described by AFP this week as follows:
The feud took a new turn this March when state-run company Sakab Saudi Holding accused Aljabri of embezzling $3.47 billion while working at the Ministry of Interior under MBN. It urged the Massachusetts court to freeze his $29 million Boston property assets.
This came weeks after multiple state-owned companies sued Aljabri in Toronto on similar allegations. A Canadian court subsequently announced a worldwide freeze of Aljabri’s assets.
The Massachusetts case has witnessed the US Justice Department get involved in a rare intervention, with an April filing telling of Aljabri’s intention to “describe information concerning alleged national security activities”.
Washington could go so far as the invoke the “states secrets privilege” in a case that’s essentially a spat between two foreign entities. According to further details from court filings cited in AFP:
“The (US) government is considering whether and how to participate in this action, including if necessary and applicable, through an assertion of appropriate governmental privileges,” the filing said, without elaborating.
In a second filing a month later, the Justice Department asked the court for more time as national security matters require “‘delicate’ and ‘complex’ judgements by senior officials”.
The filing said the government was prepared to “provide further information” to the court in secret.
Crucially, state-run Sakab – which is at center of the Massachusetts lawsuit – is widely known to be a front company for Saudi intelligence through which it can conduct covert operations with allied agencies abroad, particularly in the US with the CIA.
Middle East Eye has additionally in the past described Jabri as having had “deep ties with the CIA and had been a key go-between for western intelligence agencies and the Saudi intelligence apparatus, worked closely under bin Nayef, who in 2017 was ousted, put under house arrest, and replaced by his cousin, Mohammed bin Salman, as the country’s crown prince.”
Previously in the long-running saga, this US summons actually happened…
US court issues summons for #Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
— Robert Carter (@Bob_cart124) August 10, 2020
Thus clearly the former spymaster possesses many secrets, but the kicker as noted in AFP this week is what follows:
In order to prove his innocence, the court would need to probe Sakab’s finances, including how they were used to “finance sensitive programs” operated in partnership with the CIA, the US National Security Agency and the US Defense Department, said a filing by Aljabri.
While the US government has in the past often been successful in blocking court proceedings from making sensitive national security matters public, neither the DOJ or CIA have any legal standing or direct sway to do so on the Canada side of the proceedings – meaning secret information could come to light via the Toronto court.