Two demands facing the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia with an old head of intelligence services threaten to expose US government secrets, prompting Washington to study a unusual judicial intervention, as shown by various documents.
The cases brought before US and Canadian courts focus on allegations of corruption by Saudi state-owned companies against Saad Aljabri, a former spy chief who for a long time worked closely with U.S. officials on covert operations of fight against terrorism.
It is the latest chapter in a long dispute between the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) y Aljabri.
The head of Aljabri, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN), is detained in Saudi Arabia after being deposed as heir to the throne in 2017.
The legal conflict sheds light on rivalries in the upper echelons of the Saudi royal family and Washington fears a showdown in court expose sensitive information.
Instances presented to the court
In April, the Department of Justice filed a highly unusual case in Massachusetts court in which it discussed Aljabri’s intention to “describe information relating to alleged criminal activities. National security».
“Government [de Estados Unidos] is studying yes he will participate in this action and how it will do it, including, if necessary and applicable, asserting the necessary privileges “, said the instance.
In a second instance, a month later, the Department of Justice asked the court for more timeas national security issues require “delicate and complex judgments by senior officials.”
Legal experts point out that Washington could invoke the “privilege of state secrets” to avoid a court order of disclosure of harmful information for national security.
Freeze all your assets
Last year, Aljabri denounced in another lawsuit that MBS sent the murderers of the ‘Tiger Squad’ to kill him in Canada, where he lives in exile, while holding two of his children to pressure him to return home.
The case took a new turn in March when the state-owned company Sakab Saudi Holding accused Aljabri of embezzling 3,470 million dollars when he worked in the Interior Ministry under MBN. He also urged the Massachusetts court to freeze his real estate assets in 29 million dollars in Boston.
The indictment came weeks after several state-owned companies sued Aljabri in Toronto for similar acts. Subsequently, a Canadian court announced the freezing of Aljabri’s assets around the world.
Aljabri’s legal advisers deny that he committed any financial crimes and claim that he is caught up in the rivalry between MBS and MBN, which has not been seen publicly since his arrest in March 2020.
The state-owned company Sakab, which according to court records was created in 2008 by MBN, was part of a network of front companies to provide coverage for operations of clandestine security with the United States.
According to an Aljabri instance, to prove his innocence, the court should investigate Sakab’s finances, including how they were used to “finance sensitive programs” in association with the CIA, the US National Security Agency and the US Department of Defense.
Disclosure of state secrets
“Dr. Saad would never expose the covert counterterrorism projects that saved thousands of lives, including those of Americans,” a source close to the former spy chief told AFP.
“Unfortunately, MBS’s blind vendetta against Dr. Saad has cornered him into a position where he go forced to do it to defend themselves in court, “he added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is studying measures to prevent any disclosure of state secrets in Massachusetts, it is not clear how he could do the same in the Ontario court, over which he has no direct influence.
The source close to Aljabri acknowledged that any exposure could endanger “those who participated in the operations [antiterroristas], revealed sources and methods, and hinder (…) similar operations in the future.
Aware of sensitive information
Several US officials who worked with Aljabri expressed their support, and some acknowledge that was aware of sensitive information.
“Dr. Saad worked directly with at least the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the White House, the State Department and the Treasury Department, “wrote the former CIA official Philip Mudd in an affidavit in the US court.
“When the United States had tactical or intelligence information actionable, we gave it to Dr. Saad, “he added.
In its April instance, the Justice Department said it planned to dialogue with both parties for their positions, suggesting that it was willing to reach an out-of-court settlement.