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Friday, 30 March 2012

Mexican officials drop Gaddafi house accusation from Vanier file


Mexican officials no longer believe that Cynthia Vanier attempted to purchase a house for Saadi Gaddafi, the third son of fallen Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi, as part of an attempt to smuggle him out of North Africa.

La politica has written extensively on the absurdity of this particular accusation. Now it can be established and stated as fact that not only did Ms. Vanier not purchase a “safe house” for Mr. Gaddafi, she never intended to. Instead, the house the Canadian consultant planned on purchasing in La Cruz, Mexico – located between Puerto Vallarta and the luxury retreat of Punta Mita – was intended to be her own domicile.

Past suggestions, notably by former Saadi Gaddafi body guard Gary Peters, that there was a plan to purchase a house for Mr. Gaddafi in Punta Mita, have been impossible to prove. In fact, they have been impossible to verify at even the most speculative level.

The story of the Punta Mita house was told by Mr. Peters, who is now unavailable for comment, without any evidence to support it. As well, the Mexican authorities have never referenced a property in Punta Mita. They have only included "La Estrella", the La Cruz property, in connection with a possible residence for Mr. Gaddafi. Now they have clearly concluded that such a safe house did not exist – at least not in connection with Ms. Vanier.

Ms. Vanier was arrested before the purchase closed (Photo: La politica es la politica)

On March 21 Stewart Bell, referring to the people who arranged for Ms. Vanier’s aircraft lease, reported in the National Post that they were “accused of conspiring with Ms. Vanier to smuggle members of Libya’s Gaddafi family to an oceanfront hideaway near Puerto Vallarta.”

This was one week after La politica dispelled the notion of such an “oceanfront hideaway”.  But then, three days later on March 24, Mr. Bell, again reporting in the National Post, stated:

“A town near Puerto Vallarta was the soft landing chosen for Saadi Gaddafi, the dictator’s hedonistic third son and head of the Libyan Special Forces. To get him there, according to Mexican officials, properties were purchased, planes were rented and passports were forged.”

In fact, Mexican authorities only alluded to an attempt by Ms. Vanier to purchase the house in La Cruz. That transaction was never completed, as Ms. Vanier was arrested before the deal closed.

Sadly, this accusation has been repeated, often as fact, in many other news sources.

For example, CTV reported on March 26th about an alleged “James Bond-style scheme which involved private planes, forged passports and a safehouse.”

And  William Marsden, writing in the Montreal Gazette on March 29, wrote that “Saadi had intended to flee to Puerto Vallarta where he had bought a villa.”

That statement was incorrect then, and it is incorrect now. La politica has sent an email to Mr. Marsden advising that this is wrong, but the false statement still sits out there.

The La Cruz house - hardly a Gaddafi compound (Photo: La politica es la politica)

Of course, on a blog like this, we get things wrong, too. In our last post we referenced the "San Diego Reporter," but the name of the paper is the "San Diego Reader." They contacted us, and we fixed it.

We also say things that occasionally upset people, including our sources. But we won’t keep on repeating misinformation when we have been advised otherwise.

The retreat by the Mexican authorities on the “coastal getaway” theory poses some problems for the case being built against Ms. Vanier. Now, the only active theory for a residence would be at the St. Regis hotel and condominium complex in Mexico City.

The Mexican authorities claim that $2,000,000 pesos (US $157,000) was put as a down payment on a residence there. However, we have yet to see any documentation that the down payment came from accounts controlled by Cynthia Vanier.

As well, the lack of a safe house calls into question the validity of the theory that a full-time security detail was being put together for Mr. Gaddafi in Mexico. That kind of close protection would be more suited to a compound – much as exists in Punta Mita, and in Tripoli too, for that matter – than to an urban condominium complex.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Thursday, 29 March 2012

SNC-Lavalin likely contracted large sums to Vanier Consulting


One of the difficulties in getting the real story with regard to Cynthia Vanier – the Canadian facing charges that she attempted to smuggle fallen Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s third son, Saadi, to Mexico with his family  –  is finding the money trail.

We know very little. On the record, Ms. Vanier was paid $100,000 plus $13,000 in HST by SNC-Lavalin for a fact-finding mission to Libya last July. She invoiced another $395,500, which SNC-Lavalin has refused to honour. In fact, Ms. Vanier’s company, Vanier Consulting, was almost certainly receiving much more than this from SNC-Lavalin.

This is despite the fact that SNC-Lavalin claims Ms. Vanier was never properly contracted to the company. Her main points of contact, VP and financial controller Stephane Roy, and executive VP Riadh ben Aissa, left the company in February. According to SNC-Lavalin, they were acting outside of SNC-Lavalin’s code of ethics, and could therefore not be seen to be properly representing the company.

Worse, the company’s Chief Executive, Pierre Duhaime, was forced out on March 26th after an internal investigation found payments totalling $56 million to un-named foreign agents. The company believes they were tied to two construction projects in Tunisia, but it doesn’t know where the money went.  The company also says it has yet to recover the $22.9-million it had in Libyan banks when the Gaddafi regime collapsed.

The RCMP has now been called in to investigate. They are looking into Ms. Vanier’s relationship with SNC-Lavalin, too, though Ms. Vanier is not allowed to comment on any possible communication due to concerns that she be charged with obstruction of justice.

What is clear to anyone who understands simple math is that Ms. Vanier, unless she was running a charity for SNC-Lavalin, was paid much more than $100,000.

It would seem that the money passed from SNC-Lavalin to Vanier Consulting, Ms. Vanier’s business. Why none of those transactions have seen the light of day, and why they are deemed to be secret by Ms. Vanier, the RCMP, and SNC-Lavalin, when there are two invoices worth $495,500 that all the players are willing to acknowledge, is something of a mystery.

Ms. Vanier made one trip to North Africa in July, 2011. She flew in a Hawker jet to Kosovo, then to Tunisia, and then travelled by land to western Libya. The plane was brokered through GG Global Holdings in San Diego, which then subcontracted to a Mexican-American man in Mexico named Christian Esquino, also known as Ed Nuñez. His full name is Christian Eduardo Esquino Nuñez.

The Mexican case rests largely on testimony from Mr. Esquino Nuñez, who was detained by Mexican authorities on Saturday, March 17th – he is accused of defrauding the Mexican government of 20-million pesos (about $1.6-million) in aircraft.

Greg Gillispie is the owner of GG Global Holdings along with Gabriela (Gabby) Davila Huerta (also known as Gabriela de Cueto) and Michael Boffo, a former DynCorp employee. Pierre Flensborg, a Danish national formerly residing in Houston, is also involved with the company.

Mr. Gillispie came in contact with Mr. Esquino Nuñez, who had a jet-service business out of Toluca, near Mexico City, through Gabriela de Cueto, who was best friends with Mr. Esquino’s wife, Bertha.

Ms. de Cueto is in jail in Chetumal, Mexico, with Ms. Vanier, and Mr. Flensborg is in jail in Veracruz, Mexico, along with Jose Luis Kennedy Prieto, an alleged passport forger. All four are accused of being part of the plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico.

Greg Gillispie is also principal of Veritas Worldwide Security, formerly affiliated with Veritas Worldwide Solutions, also in San Diego. GG Global Holdings brokered the plane, and Veritas Worldwide Security would have been a source of security personnel.

The reason why the Mexican officials see Ms. Vanier as the ringleader is because she was the financial lead on everything: the planes, the security details, accommodation, etc. She paid Gary Peters – the security guard who had worked previously with Ms. Vanier in Canada, and who had also worked for Saadi Gaddafi – who then contracted and paid for the security detail. This was likely to the tune of many tens of thousands of dollars, given that multiple sources have now told La politica that individuals were paid $1,000 a day. There is a paper trail here: Vanier Consulting paid Mr. Peters by cheque.

Apparently, the airplane provided to Ms. Vanier was inadequate. The National Post has reported that the Hawker jet used on Ms. Vanier’s fact finding mission cost $145,000, not including her six-man security team and their expenses. At the $1,000 day rate subcontracted off of Gary Peters the entire team and its expenses would be pushing $10,000 a day (one assumes Mr. Peters would be earning more than those he employed). Ms. Vanier went to Libya via Kosovo and Tunisia from July 17, 2011, to July 26 2011. By these estimates, the cost of security for this trip alone would be over $50,000. 

Saadi Gaddafi (Image: Interpol)

“She wanted an airplane on very short notice. She made the initial payment of $145,000, owed me $81,000. She refused to pay that money. The money she paid was the money I owed Christian. The $81,000 was for brokering,” said Mr. Gillispie in an interview with the San Diego Reader. The brokering fee was then dropped to $51,000.

So, according to that reckoning, Ms. Vanier is already down at least $45,000 from her $100,000 retainer with SNC-Lavalin, not to mention the cost of her security detail. She also owes a lot of money. Yet she was gung-ho for more missions. Mr. Gillispie claims that in early August, 2011, Ms. Vanier said she had to go back to Libya “eight or nine more times over the next 12-month period.”

With this news, Ms. de Cueto apparently called Mr. Esquino Nuñez for a quote. Despite Ms. Vanier’s dissatisfaction with the first plane, Ms. Cueto, Mr. Gillispie, and Mike Boffo, a business partner of Mr. Gillispie’s, flew to Toronto to meet Ms. Vanier. Mr. Peters was present at this meeting, as was Barrie Rice, who had served in the New Zealand Special Forces, and who had also accompanied Ms. Vanier on her first trip to Libya.

The numbers then become huge, with Ms. Vanier wanting “a Gulfstream jet for US$200,000 per month for up to nine months and a smaller Citation for US$100,000 monthly”, according to the National Post.

The Post has also reported that Mr. Gillispie wrote the following in an email to Mr. Esquino Nuñez: “The Citation will be staged in Pristina, Kosovo, where it will be available to conduct emergency extractions out of Libya and Tunisia...In the event that the Citation does execute an on call emergency extract we will pay $500,000 for each trip.”

On August 10, when Gillispie and his partners met Cynthia Vanier at the Region of Waterloo International Airport (Kitchener airport), Ms. Vanier complained that the first flight was a disaster. According to Gillispie, he said he could forgive the money owed if Ms. Vanier would negotiate a 12-month contract.

“I thought I would roll the $81,000 back into the yearlong contract,” Mr. Gillispie told the San Diego Reader. “We left Canada, and we talked to Christian about a full-year Gulfstream and a smaller airplane on-call in Kosovo."

Gillispie negotiated a deal for approcimately $3 million (previous reports fo a $9 million quote were incorrect).

"It took us a couple of days to agree to all the variations that were possible for a contract lasting up to 12 months long.”

This contract was then presented to Ms. Vanier in mid-August, and on August 24th Mr. Gillispie and Ms. de Cueto delivered a Gulfstream III aircraft and the completed contract.

“Cyndy opted to take the 9-month option and signed the contract for a Gulfstream and a Citation. Gas was on top of the contract price. The aircraft and pilots were left with her. The pilots were directed not to fly her or any of her people until we received the first payment. It was on approximately the 28th that we received the wire transfer.”

Now, according to this telling Ms. Vanier signed multi-million dollar contract. What would Ms. Vanier’s profit margin have been? We are clearly entering into a relationship with SNC-Lavalin, her only client, that would enter into many millions of dollars.

Payments, apparently, were monthly. This is over $300,000 a month in airplanes, and we have now heard that Ms. Vanier was good for that first wire transfer. These numbers had been alluded to before in conversations that La politica has had people close to Ms. Vanier, but none of it was specific. Now we have a solid quote from Mr. Gillispie.

To hear Mr. Gillispie describe it, the Mexico connection is simply a happy coincidence, and a matter of convenience. Mexico has the cheapest planes, and Ms. Vanier had property there.

“During the next month, Cyndy flew three times to Mexico, where she owned property. This worked well, as the plane was registered in Mexico, so Christian could do maintenance in Mexico per law,” he said.

However, at the end of the first month of the contract, Mr. Gillispie claims Ms. Vanier refused to pay for the next month. Apparently, she also didn’t pay for fuel for her three trips to Mexico. Mr. Gillispie then informed Ms. Vanier that they were suspending the contract, and that Mr. Esquino Nuñez wanted to be paid for fuel. To try and come to a resolution, Mr. Gillispie and Ms. de Cueto flew to Mexico to meet with Ms. Vanier around September 22 or 23, 2011.

The problems were not resolved, although Mr. Gillispie claims Ms. Vanier then did “another deal with Christian, cutting us out of the deal,” after which “she flew back to Canada, still owing us money and still owing Christian money.”

That recounting seems a little off: what “deal” could Mr. Esquino Nuñez have done with Ms. Vanier if there was outstanding money owed for the fuel?

Nonetheless, apparently one month of a nine month, three million dollar contract had been paid for. Sums that large have never been mentioned before in relation to this story. Ms. Vanier seems to have had only one source of income for this job, and that was SNC-Lavalin. However, SNC-Lavalin is now in such disarray they claim journalists may know more about their rogue spending than they do. And Ms. Vanier and her family say they cannot speak to this matter in more detail as it will jeopardize her case.

But if there was a plot to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, it is clear that the intellectual author would have to be SNC-Lavalin. If so, then Mr. ben Aissa and Mr. Roy, who are believed to still be in the Montreal area, would be as guilty of attempting to smuggle Mr. Gaddafi as anyone else. Mr. Peters would also certainly be implicated.

The fact that the RCMP has not detained any of these three men would suggest that they are uncertain as to the legitimacy of the overall plot. 

Mr. Peters was let go by Ms. Vanier after August 28, 2011, with a letter of termination having been sent on or about September 1st. Ms. Vanier prepared her own contract with SNC-Lavalin. The first contract was signed June 29th or 30th. The revised contract excluded the use of Gary Peters’ services.

During Mr. Peters' second trip in August, therefore, he was not under contract to Vanier Consulting. This is the trip in which he claims he helped to move Saadi Gaddafi and his family to the Libyan border with Niger. He has said that payments for this came from “Libyans and Europeans”, and that the move was his idea. He has also said that he was handsomely remunerated.

It is possible that Mr. Peters was paid by Gaddafi loyalists, or by agents for SNC-Lavalin. Clearly, SNC-Lavalin had a lot of money floating around North Africa.

As well, La politica has been receiving leaks that suggest Michael Boffo sent emails from his Veritas Worldwide Security account in search of a personal security detachment (PSD) for Saadi Gaddafi. The pay was to have been $1,000 a day – in line with what Mr. Peters has claimed was being offered when, apparently, a legal effort was afoot to extract Mr. Gaddafi before June, 2011.

(Despite repeated efforts, La politica has had no luck getting Mr. Peters, who has made inconsistent statements, to clarify these claims. One of our sources says he may now be in hospital.)

In an e-mail correspondence with La politica, Mr. Boffo claims neither he nor Mr. Gillispie had any knowledge of such a plot.

“I can speak for Greg and I” he wrote to La politica. “We met Cindi Vainer (sic) for 20 min in the fall of 2011.  That's the first and only time we met or talked.”

What is clear is that the money spent on the first trip, as well as Ms. Vanier’s future intentions, could not have been paid out of the invoiced amounts. According to Gillispie, Ms. Vanier said she would have the money on “November 8th or 9th”. Ms. Vanier was arrested on November 10th in Mexico City. Stephane Roy, the SNC-Lavalin controller, was questioned on November 11th, also in Mexico City, while in the company of de Cueto, who was arrested that day.

If the Gaddafi plot is a ruse, the motive for a frame-up may come from the fact that there had been a falling out between Gabriela de Cueto and Christian Esquino Nuñez.

On October 10, 2011, Gillispie, de Cueto and Flensborg, flew to Zurich, and from there to Istanbul (Turkey), northern Iraq, and Pristina (Kosovo) on a two-week trip to negotiate contracts to import sugar, oil, and airplanes.

“Christian was going to fly us, and we could cut him in on the contracts,” says Gillispie. “He would meet us in Europe. We booked round-trip tickets to Zurich.”

However, three days before the trip, Mr. Esquino backed out. An anonymous call was made to the Mexican government questioning maintenance on Mr. Esquino’s planes, and he thought de Cueto was involved.

“While we are in Iraq, Gabby gets an email from Christian saying, ‘I know you’re behind this. Call your dogs off,’” says Gillispie. “After we get back from Iraq, Gabby and Pierre fly to New York to bridge finances. Bertha [Christian Esquino’s wife] loaned Gabby $100,000 for the trip. Christian doesn’t know this.”

Then, according to Gillispie, after de Cueto and Flensborg finished their business in New York, they went on to Mexico City to meet Ms. Vanier. According to Mr. Gillispie, de Cueto called Esquino’s wife on the evening of the 10th, once she arrived in Mexico City, and informed her about the meeting the next morning with Ms. Vanier. That night, the Mexican authorities receive a second Anonymous email detailing a meeting set for the next morning between Ms. Vanier and Ms. de Cueto.

“That information was only transmitted over the phone between Gabby and Bertha,” says Gillispie, “so it could not have been gotten from a hacked email by the Anonymous group, as claimed by the Mexican government.”

As well, an un-named source has contacted La politica to claim that in July 2011, around 10 personal security detail (PSD) specialists were contacted by Michael Boffo on Greg Gillispie's and Veritas’ behalf.  This source has offered information on key players such as Mr. Boffo, Greg Gillispie, and Loren Berenda, who helped broker the plane, that could only come from someone familiar with their activities. It should be noted that the motivation of this source remains unclear, and unless and until the person identifies themselves to La politica, the leaked information will be treated with some skepticism.

According to this source, PSD professionals were contacted by Mr. Boffo off his Veritas e-mail account and told to be on standby for a very lucrative contract protecting ‘a high profile person.’  Pay was to be around $1,000 a day, with travel between Kosovo and Mexico.  However, when it was later learned that the person was Saadi Gaddafi the team fell apart, because the job would “jeopardize their reputation and future ability to obtain a clearance.”

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Monday, 19 March 2012

Mexican officials may be implicated in document forgery


When the Canadian Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier was arrested in Mexico City on November 10th, 2011, on suspicion of being the ringleader in a plot to smuggle Saadi Gadhafi, the third son of fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi, to Mexico, officials had a key piece of evidence that would support their decision to keep her in custody before charges could be laid: a forged voting card.

Ms. Vanier claims no knowledge of how the card came to be in her possession, other than that it was in a wallet that had been given to her by a friend of her co-accused, Gabriela Davila Huerta. Davila Huerta comes from a well-connected Mexican family, and was the person that Ms. Vanier employed to subcontract the jet she used to travel to North Africa in July, 2011, on a fact-finding tour financed by Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

Who was this other person? We don’t know. Her first name was “Berta”, and her husband was “Ed”. In fact, it is likely that "Ed" is "Ed Nunez", who is Christian Esquino, the man that Ms. Davila Huerta, also known as Gabby de Cueto, used to source the aircraft in Mexico.  Mr. Esquino was detained by Mexican authorities on Saturday, March 17th, and is a key witness in the case.

Strangely, the name on the forged card was “Cinthia Anne Macdonald Grau”, which miss-spells Ms. Vanier’s first name: it is Cynthia, though Ms. Vanier often goes by Cyndy. It also gets her middle name wrong – it is “Ann” not “Anne” – and uses a version of the Mexican custom of maintaining a person’s metronymic (though MacDonald is Vanier’s maiden name, not her mother’s).  As for “Grau”, one can only guess. Her complete name as shown on her birth certificate is “Cynthia Ann MacDonald”.

As well, the finger print on the card is not hers, and it is not her signature. Ms. Vanier claims not have used her maiden name for decades. Her previous husband’s last name was “Elder”.

The email account the Mexican authorities are using as evidence that Ms. Vanier was in possession of stolen documents used the name “Cinthia Anne Macdonald Grau”. This can be seen clearly in the image provided below from a February 1 news conference given by Mexico's Attorney General's office (PGR).



As well, the passport shown above has never been presented physically, but only as a scanned document. The Arabic script appears to be hand written. The National Post has reported that this is a forged Libyan passport. However, the image below, of a forged Libyan passport for Abdelhakim Belhadj, the governor of Tripoli, who attempted to leave Libya under a false name, indicates that the Mexican example is likely not a Libyan passport.

 Abdelhakim Belhadj: a better forger than Saadi

Ms. Vanier was also a victim of attempted fraud. In September she went to a Bancomer branch in Mexico City, and opened an account using her passport.  At that time she enquired about a mortgage on the property she was to buy in La Cruz, on the Pacific Coast, just up the road from her condominium in Bucerias.  Bancomer is Mexico’s largest financial institution.

At a later date she provided the bank with a flash drive with copies of her passport, BMO bank records, a letter from her bank manager, a copy of her marriage certificate, and a purchase contract for her condo in Bucerias, known as the Velmar.

Bancomer was offering a 12% mortgage rate, which Ms. Vanier balked at. As a result of a discussion with Davila Huerta, a meeting was then set up for November 10th – the day Ms. Vanier was arrested. In fact, on the day of the meeting the bank manager was not there, so Ms. Vanier and Ms. Davila Huerta left. Only a few hours later Ms. Vanier was arrested. 

Allegedly, an application at Bancomer for a mortgage under a different name and using a different signature was also made for the La Cruz property. That name was Cinthia Anne Macdonald Grau, the same as on the fake voting card, and included photocopies of a Mexican passport and birth certificate under those names. There are no charges pending with regard to this false application, but SEIDO – the investigative arm of Mexico’s Attorney General’s office – is using the documents as evidence.

Clearly, however, Ms. Vanier never signed any mortgage application with any Mexican bank, and never produced any hard copy documents other than her Canadian passport.

Most disturbing, when signing in to see Ms. Vanier at the detention centre in Mexico City, incorrect versions of her name were used, such as “Cindy”, “Cinthia” and “Grau”. This suggests that the Mexicans were considering versions of the false identity to be Ms. Vanier’s real identity.

The authorities do not seem to have asked a few very simple questions: if Ms. Vanier were attempting to assume forged documents in her name, why would she use a convoluted hybrid? Wouldn’t she assume a “new” name, or keep her own correct identity but with new documentation? And what person in their right mind has an incorrect finger print and incorrect signature on a piece of identification they are trying to pass off as their own?

In other words, by all appearances this is not a case of Ms. Vanier attempting to acquire a Mexican identity, but of a Mexican ineptly attempting to assume Ms. Vanier’s identity. And, given that this incorrect information was being used by Mexican officials at the detention centre in Mexico City, it looks like they might be implicated in the forgery.

But why?

First, it is important to understand that Ms. Vanier was moving a lot of money through her accounts. In an upcoming post we will discuss the financial aspects of this story in more detail, and will provide as-of-yet unpublished information, but for now, suffice to say that the amounts in the two publicly reported invoices by Ms. Vanier to SNC-Lavalin – one for $100,000, which was paid, and the other for $395.500, which is outstanding – are not the full amounts. There was almost certainly significant pass through from SNC-Lavalin of larger amounts, and these would have been seen by the officials in Mexico, because they had access to her information from her Canadian bank, BMO. This could have provided opportunity for attempts at fraud, and also raised suspicion from “legitimate” law enforcement.

Second, it is important to realize that once a Mexican official, or officials, believes that a person is up to some hanky panky, they can then feel it is within their right to help the case along via what we’ll politely refer to as “extra-judicial efforts”. Creating and planting false documentation to secure an arrest simply makes sense. The Mexicans already had a tip off from Anonymous, the leaderless group of Internet hackers, claiming that there were fake Gadhafi passports, and that these were tied to Ms. Vanier and Ms. Davila Huerta. Planting evidence simply speeds the process along.

In fact, on occasion Mexican authorities will go to ridiculous lengths to arrest people and make themselves look good. Take the absurd case of the French woman Florence Cassez. Ms. Cassez was arrested at the end of 2005 with her boyfriend Israel Vallarta. The two were detained overnight, and then moved to Vallarta’s farmhouse in the early hours of the next day. Mexican Federal Police “tipped off” some journalists, and staged a fake arrest, which they video-taped. The footage was splattered all over Mexican television, showing the faux heroics of Mexican police.

Pathetic as that story is, the Mexican media has done a decent job of exposing the irregularities and inconsistencies in the Cassez case. They don’t argue her guilt or innocence, but simply say that the legal process is so flawed that the rationale for detention cannot be sustained. In La politica’s opinion, that appears to be true of Cynthia Vanier, as well.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson

Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

SNC-Lavalin attempts employee lock-down

Like many corporations, the Canadian engineering giant SNC-Lavalin keeps track of its employees’ e-mails.

For the Montreal-headquartered firm, this is of even greater relevance now that a $250 million class action lawsuit has been launched alleging that senior management “engaged in unlawful activities in Libya”.

There is also an internal investigation into $35 million in undocumented payments booked by the company last year. This investigation may be tied to the activities of former executive vice-president of the firm’s construction arm, Riadh Ben Aïssa, and Stéphane Roy, who was a vice-president of finance.

Both Ben Aïssa and Roy, who hired Canadian consultant Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier to conduct a fact-finding mission to Libya last July, left the company on February 10. Ms. Vanier is now in prison in Chetumal, Mexico, accused of attempting to arrange the illegal smuggling of Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico. Saadi Gaddafi, now in Niger, is the third son of fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and was a close contact for Mr. Ben Aïssa with the former regime.

With regard to these and other issues, SNC-Lavalin has had something of a “poison pen” problem, with insiders leaking information to press, including to La politica es la politica.

As a result, this message was recently sent to all employees at SNC-Lavalin:

 To all our employees,

We would like to inform you that we received information that certain members of our staff communicated with the press on recent events involving Mr. Aïssa and Mr. Roy. We expect that our employees respect and keep any information within the company private after signing the Code of Ethics. The company will be taking action to terminate those who have chosen to express their own views and provide the press with information private to the company.

The company is taking every precaution and will take further and clear measures to keep our company information private.

From the Office of the President

SNC-Lavalin's “Office of the President” is a group of 12 senior executives.  It includes chief executive Pierre Duhaime and chief financial officer Gilles Laramee. Not surprisingly, this group now has its own legal counsel. It is represented by law firm Norton Rose.

 Monsieur Duhaime - the buck stops....where?

The reason why these senior executives need counsel, and why they are exhorting employees to keep silent, is because the “Code of Ethics” that they refer to with such gravitas was likely breached on a massive scale under their watch.

In fact, while Saadi Gaddafi was bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in business to SNC-Lavalin, the Office of the President didn’t look the other way – it got in up to its eyeballs.

As La politica has previously documented, SNC-Lavalin’s code of ethics is a rather straightforward document. However, parts of it appear to be written specifically for the playboy children of dictators:

“Client satisfaction is central to SNC-Lavalin's continued success. SNC-Lavalin makes every effort to understand its clients' and customers' requirements and concerns and to respond to them, efficiently, fairly and equitably.”

More specifically, under “Gifts, Favours, Entertainment and Payments Given by SNC-Lavalin”, the gestures must be within accepted business practices, of limited value, and of such a nature that disclosure would not embarrass SNC-Lavalin.

Apparently, paying the bills for the inner circle of one of the world’s most notorious dictators – including hotels, security and transportation – is not cause for embarrassment. Must be, because that is exactly what SNC-Lavalin did when Saadi Gaddafi travelled to Canada for three months in 2008.

The hypocrisy of the Office of the President is staggering. But let’s be clear: though employees can be intimidated into not communicating with journalists, they have an obligation to report illegal activities to the authorities. In fact, it is unlawful not to report such information to law enforcement.

This applies to information concerning Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier as well. Those who have been quick to assume the worst of her often forget that, if she is guilty, the intellectual author of the crime is SNC-Lavalin. The company cannot hide behind the notion that two executives were “rogue”, when their activities had been know about and even encouraged for years.

Sadly, many employees are now terrified. They report to La politica that “no one is safe” and that there is “no such thing as privacy at SNC-Lavalin”.

But a company’s Code of Ethics does not trump a person’s moral and legal obligations to society. So, if you have something to report, you needn’t feel obliged to tell us. You are, however, duty-bound to call the RCMP.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson

Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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There was no “safe house” for Saadi Gaddafi in Mexico

Cynthia Vanier is a 52-year-old mother of two who hails from the small town of Mount Forest, Ontario. She loves golf, has a devoted husband, organizes her life around her rescue dog, and has a solid reputation as a mediator in Canada’s indigenous communities.

 She is also, according to Mexican authorities, the international ringleader of an organized crime organization that planned to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi, the playboy third son of fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, to a safe house in Mexico along with his wife and two children.

In fact, central to the Mexican authorities’ case against Ms. Vanier is the accusation that she was negotiating the purchase of a property for the younger Gaddafi on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

And, though the freelance journalist hired by Canada’s National Post newspaper, David Agren, did his damndest to write an honest story about how unlikely this scenario was, the Post has persisted in inaccurately referring to the property as being in Punta Mita, the playground of the rich and famous up the coast from Puerto Vallarta.

Let’s get the facts straight. The house in question is not in Punta Mita. It is, instead, at the swampy end of a public beach in La Cruz. Same general area, but a very different neighbourhood.

The beach in front of the house at La Cruz (© La politica es la politica)

 

Ms. Vanier’s story is that she was moving to the house in La Cruz to accommodate her rescue dog. That sounds odd. It is the sort of thing that is easily dismissed on Internet message boards. But have any journalists to date spoken to impartial individuals with knowledge of Ms. Vanier’s situation to see if her story pans out? Has anyone from the Canadian government even bothered?


To establish once and for all why this house was being purchased, La politica went on the ground to Bucerias – where Ms. Vanier has her condo – and to La Cruz, where her new house was to be purchased.

We spoke to her real estate agent, who confirmed her story, and also to former neighbours of Ms. Vanier in her condo. Not friends. Not relatives. Simple acquaintances. The man and woman, who don’t want their names used  (there is federal police officer on permanent guard now at their property) made it very clear Ms. Vanier was selling her condo and purchasing her house up the road in La Cruz because of her dog.

“Another neighbour complained about the noise, so she was moving,” said the man, clearly un-nerved by the federal officer, radio crackling, on permanent watch at the gate. “I would have just sent the dog back.”

Then we went to La Cruz and spoke to Steve Needham, an Oregonian in his late fifties. Mr. Needham is Ms. Vanier’s would-be future neighbour in La Cruz. He is the man who jokingly put up the “Casa Kadafi” sign on her intended new home – the photo that made it into the National Post story. He too was under the impression that Ms. Vanier’s new residence had to accommodate her dog.

“I know they had a dog, and they were having some fencing made so that it couldn’t get out of the back yard,” he says. “She just seemed like a nice sweet woman.”

Mr. Needham’s understanding is that the house, called “Estrella”, was sold to Ms. Vanier for about $590,000. According to Mr. Needham, she had permission to go into the house and do renovations before closing.

But after the accusations broke, Ms. Vanier clearly had a credibility problem. She still does. In Mexico it makes more sense for a dictator’s son to buy a half million dollar house than for a woman to purchase it to accommodate her rescue dog.  Persist in explaining to someone in La Cruz that Canadians use plastic bags to hand-pick dog excrement, and you’ll find laughter can turn to wariness.

Nonetheless it is clear from even the most cursory investigation that it was ludicrous for Ms. Vanier, who signed her contract with SNC-Lavalin on June 30, to be prepping this house for Saadi Gaddafi and his wife and two children after her July 16 trip to Libya. All indications are that she was organizing it for her own use.

 “It makes no sense at all,” says her sister, Rhonda. “She couldn’t have fooled us, and she wouldn’t have wanted her daughter there for Christmas if she were part of this plan.”

Mr. Needham also heard that Ms. Vanier was pressing ahead with her intention to move –

“I had heard they had rented the condo and the people were supposed to move into the condo on November 17th, the same day they were suppose to take possession here,” says Needham. “But then the shit hit the fan.”

The Mexicans authorities would also have us believe that the Gaddafis were intending to cool their heels at the St. Regis apartment hotel complex in Mexico City, where Ms. Vanier’s co-accused, Gabriela Davila Huerta, had a condo, and where Ms. Davila Huerta often put up her international clients.

“Cyndy and Gabriela looked at a model suite,” says Ms. Vanier’s father, John. “And the Mexicans have construed that into a plot to buy something for the Gaddafis.”

It clearly makes no sense that Ms. Vanier would move the Gaddafis into her house in La Cruz. There is also no evidence – none – that there was a plan to move them into the St. Regis.  This is a fantasy of the Mexican authorities and easily disproved – if anyone bothered to ask around.

But what about the document forgery? What about all that money? What about Ms. Vanier’s and Saadi Gaddafi’s body guard, Gary Peters? And what about SNC- Lavalin, the presumed intellectual author of this mess?

Stay Tuned. La politica has news on those fronts, too.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson

Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Extortion attempts hit ex-pats in Mexico

Ex-pats living on the Pacific coast of Mexico north of Puerto Vallarta, as well as in the Lake Chapala area, have been subject to a rash of amateurish extortion attempts. There has also been a rise in “virtual kidnapping” efforts – resulting in a warning from the U.S. Consulate in Guadalajara – and more violent incidents against Mexicans around Lake Chapala.

English-speaking residents in Bucerias and in the Lake Chapala area have been receiving calls to their Telmex landlines in which callers claim to be from the hyper-violent Zetas cartel. The callers claim they want money for "protection".

The callers usually state they "have guns and know where you live". They might also claim to have had previous communication with a householder, and say that they will return the next day for payment. The calls are usually in Spanish, but are sometimes in English. Often, they originate from prisons.

Mexican police have been advising foreigners to “just hang up” and “not to worry about it”. Though this sounds weak, it is reasonable advice: this scam has been active for some time, and only works if the person stays on the line and participates. One other option is to pay Telmex for an unlisted number.

U.S. Consulate warning

The recent security message for U.S. citizens that was sent out by the Consulate in Guadalajara was specific to “virtual kidnapping” attempts. In these cases, family members in the U.S. are called and told that loved ones in Mexico have been kidnapped.

According to U.S. authorities, the scam usually starts with the collection of information about the family. Specifically, the Consulate states that:

Someone may call the home and pretend to be a salesman, friend, businessman, pastor, etc.  The caller will use the information collected during this call to convince the family that someone has actually been kidnapped when he calls back days or weeks later.  In addition to telephone calls, email and social media sites are used by the criminals to collect information on the victims.

When the virtual kidnapping call is made, it often begins with a crying/ pleading voice immediately after the call is answered and before the “kidnapper” gets on the phone.  In this manner, they hope to confuse the family and get them to give additional important information.  The voice of the “victim” will usually be crying and/or hysterical – this makes it difficult to identify and increases the likelihood that you will believe it is in fact your loved one.

Criminals will try to use fear, tact and timing against you.  For example, they plan their calls to coincide with times when it will be difficult to contact the child or another adult immediately (e.g. when child is either on their way to or from school).  All calls demand money for the release of the loved one and stipulate no police involvement.  Often times the callers will give statements to suggest surveillance such as: “we saw you at the school with your camioneta”.  Very vague but implying they have been watching your family and using fear and everyday routines against you to reinforce the threat of the kidnapping.  They will also impart a sense of great urgency.   For example, their initial demand maybe for some outrageous amount of money, but then they will “negotiate” and ask how much you have access to right now.

Lake Chapala’s unknown crime rate

Meanwhile, businesses in Lake Chapala are being negatively affected by extortion rackets. Word on the street is that last year criminals tried to extort money from a respected veterinarian who refused to pay and closed down.  A hairdresser west of Chapala also moved his business into Ajijic to avoid paying extortion. 

About four months ago on Jocotepec, also on Lake Chapala, a merchant refused to pay and, so the story goes, either one or two of his sons were murdered shortly thereafter. Only a few months ago a Mexican doctor was kidnapped – she paid, and was apparently returned unharmed. 

Refusing to pay can have consequences

In the past few weeks there is word of attempts to extort money from the hotels in Chapala. Sources close to La politica say that a manager refused to pay, and 30 or more bullets were fired into his house.

The police are releasing no crime information, which is only making things worse. The accounts mentioned above, for example, are hard to verify. And to hear that "one or two" people might have been murdered offers little reassurance to residents, whether Mexican or foreign.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Shootings in Coahuila shut down border bridges with Piedras Negras


A series of confrontations between unknown gunmen, a special group of the State Attorney General’s Office, and Mexican military units, occurred in the border city of Piedras Negras in the state of Coahuila on Wednesday, March 6.

A policewoman, Maria Guadalupe Delgadillo died during the clashes. Two policemen and civilians were also injured.

Closed until the dust clears

During the conflict gunmen blocked major roads with trucks – some of them burned – on the Mexican side. As a precautionary measure the U.S. Department of State then closed two border bridges between Piedras Negras, Coahuila, and its neighboring city of Eagle Pass, Texas.

Then on Thursday March 7 in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila, state police and unknown gunmen were involved in a number of shootings, which began in the early morning and spread throughout the city.

Employees and customers of local businesses near where the incidents took place had to take cover, and local authorities warned citizens to stay inside their homes until the conflict ended.  Schools remained open.

Motorists were affected by the early-morning chase and shooting, in which gunmen threw nails and metal objects into the street to aid in their escape. According to Mexican media, several gunmen were injured, but there was no word of capture.

The two bridges partially reopened around 2 a.m. on Wednesday, and were fully opened by 8 a.m.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

After meeting with Biden, Peña Nieto acting presidential

La politica es la politica will post monthly English language translations sourced from the Americas Mexico Blog.

The following come from press reports in English and Spanish during early March, 2012:

Peña Nieto agrees to cooperate with U.S. against crime, but wants better results

La Jornada: PRI presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, said after his meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, ....(that) one of the points on which (he) made ​​the greatest emphasis was security, and that he made with Biden "the clear commitment (in case he wins the presidency) to combat organized crime, working in a close and productive collaboration that allows us to deliver results in this area. It is a task and an obligation of the State to do it head on and create conditions of security. And of course we talked about that, to date, the results are poor."

.... At a press conference after the dialogue, the former governor of the state of Mexico said he made ​​it very clear to the Vice President's that "my personal position and that of my party, counter to various speculations that have been made, is that there is an unavoidable task of the Mexican State to combat organized crime more effectively, and that the discussion is not focused on whether or not to fight, but how to achieve better results."

Peña Nieto, who attended the meeting with Biden accompanied by the PRI's national president, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, and his campaign manager, Luis Videgaray, said that another of the points discussed was the challenge of Mexico's economic growth and creating jobs .

He also spoke of the desirability for both governments, "in the near future of the two administrations, to broaden the relationship between the two countries for greater benefits for our peoples, the opportunity to explore, to go beyond what has been until now a bilateral relationship in commercial terms."

Biden and Peña Nieto - preparing for a Gel Boy presidency

Wants better results

Milenio: Enrique Peña Nieto finished his meeting with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden emphasizing the importance of coordinating actions for economic growth in Mexico and the intention to continue the fight against insecurity, but with another strategy.

At the end of the meeting, the PRI candidate presented to the American his interest in improving the country's economic growth that so far has had poor results, since he considers this also to be a tool to reduce the lack of security.

As regards the fight against crime, he reiterated that it is an unwavering commitment and the discussion is not whether or not to fight but how to achieve better results.

He noted that the change in administrations in both governments that will be almost simultaneous opens the opportunity to broaden the relationship and the benefits to go further in terms of trade.

Regarding the statement by the vice president, he agreed with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that the U.S. government has committed itself to respect the vote of Mexicans and there will be no favoritism toward any candidate.

The PRI presidential nominee welcomed Biden's position on the presidential succession in Mexico. "First, he let us know that he had absolute respect for the democratic process that Mexico is living through. Second, his commitment to work with and respect whoever wins this election."

He affirmed that he also shared with Biden his energy project, which includes the probable opening of Petróleos Mexicanos and the necessity in the next six years to look for migration reform.

Poll keeps Peña Nieto well on top

La politica es la politica has reported on a recent poll that suggests the PAN’s presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota had significantly closed the gap with Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI. Many thought that poll was too optimistic and, as the NYTimes.com reports, below, they may be right.

NYTimes.com: Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (known as PRI) holds a commanding lead over his nearest rival four months ahead of presidential elections. A survey by the pollster BGC,showed Mr. Peña Nieto with 47 percent, followed by Josefina Vázquez Mota of President Felipe Calderón’s National Action Party (or PAN) with 29 percent. BGC said it polled 1,800 voters between Feb. 23 and Feb. 27 and that the results had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

Mexican business association criticizes security situation

La Jornada: A leader of the business community criticized the environment of insecurity in Mexico over the last six years as “regrettable” and called for a “better strategy” to combat organized crime that will guarantee Mexican citizens peace and tranquility as soon as possible.

In his first press conference as president of the Mexican Business Confederation (Coparmex), Alberto Espinosa Desigaud said that due to the climbing violence, businesspeople have been exposed to robbery, kidnapping, extortion, and murder. “It is fundamentally a matter of government policy, and not just at the federal level,” he added.

“If we only rely on the actions of the federal government to generate better results, then we are really on the wrong path,” remarked the Coparmex head who was elected on February 29th, replacing Gerardo Gutiérrez Candiani.

Espinosa Desiguad blamed state and municipal governments for not correctly adjusting their budgets to address security issues. He said, “If the cities and towns, where these unfortunate occurrences principally take place, were making better use of their resources, being better prepared, adding more police, and had more trustworthy agencies, the results would be different.”

The businessman insisted on the necessity of rooting corruption out of police forces. “Today, the police in several states and towns are complicit; it’s clear that we have been operating like this for many years. We ask that there be less corruption in the police and a greater sense of responsibility on behalf of the authorities to take action to prevent complicity with criminal activities.”

Espinosa Desiguad acknowledged the pressures that municipal government officials are exposed to when it comes to confronting organized crime, but reaffirmed that they cannot continue to put aside what needs to be done. He also maintained that municipal level politicians need to do a better job of protecting themselves, along with the state and federal governments.

Espinosa Desigaud also stated that the global economic turndown has had an impact on the levels of violence in Mexico. He claimed that if national economic growth were at 6 percent annually, and the required number of jobs were generated, that the bloodshed could decrease.

Regarding the agenda that the business group will pursue following his swearing-in as president, Espinosa said that Coparmex will concentrate on promoting a quality education system for all Mexicans, supporting citizen participation in democratic processes, developing proposals to strengthen public security, and starting an action program to stimulate the economy.

Finally, Espinosa Desiguad announced that all of the partners of the organization will take to the streets all around the country in order to promote informed voting, to help oversee the electoral process, and to demand that politicians comply with their promises.

However, he emphasized that Coparmex is a non-partisan organization and will not endorse any single candidate or party, adding “we will be very quick to question all of the candidates about their concrete proposals for achieving the great changes that our country requires.

CPJ says Mexican government has failed to protect journalists

La Jornada: Carlos Lauria, head of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in America, demanded that President Felipe Calderon and senators "unthaw" the initiative he proposed that would make attacks on journalists a federal crime. He also asked the presidential candidates and political parties to include in their electoral agenda the issue of journalists.

He noted that the president has failed in his objective of providing security to the profession of journalism, since the Special Prosecutor for the Prevention of Crimes against Freedom of Expression does not have sufficient structure and the manner in which it works is not adequate to dispense justice. "It is clear that the Calderon administration has failed. It knows, it is aware of what happens, but the response has been as ineffective as it is inefficient.

Mexico's Human Rights Commission says violence creating internal refugees

La Jornada: The president of the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH), Raul Plascencia, said the increase in internal displacement caused by the violence generated by the fighting between criminal orgainizations and public safety forces "is a phenomenon that must be eradicated; since 2006 it adds up to tens of thousands of people in states such as Tamaulipas, Michoacan and Sinaloa , and in places like Ciudad Juárez there are almost 150,000.

He stressed that there have been 20 thousand people displaced by violence in Chiapas since 1994. This phenomenon, the national ombudsman said, has to be documented and the violence that causes people to have to change residence within the country--or even to leave our borders--has to be prevented. Other displaced by violence, Plascencia Villanueva said, are people who flee from their nations, as is the case with Guatemala.

Head of OAS says we have a long way to go in war on narcos

La Jornada: The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said that "we need to try something else" in the fight against drugs that is being let loose on the continent, because "we are not close to winning" this war.

"How many more things have to happen for this to end, how many more prisoners, what quantity of drugs should be confiscated?" he asked.

He said it is necessary to seek other strategies that place greater emphasis on demand in the drug-consuming countries and on the attack on bank secrecy and hidden money flows.

At the conference, "The Inter-American Order Faces the Challenges of Globalization: old and new actors in the world order," held at the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Xochimilco, Insulza pointed out: "We have many prisoners in the Americas resulting from the war against organized crime and we have also confiscated much wealth, but for some reason it doesn't appear that we may be having much success." He said that the drug war grabbed hold of President Nixon at the beginning of the decade of the 70's." And he asked if, after more than 40 years of this struggle, the outcome is a failure.

"To use the word failure properly, one has to understand that in 2010, according to estimates by international agencies, nearly half the cocaine shipments in the world were seized, and of the 3,600,000 people throughout the Americans (outside the U.S.) who are in prison, one third is for drugs. "That is, more than 1,200,000 people in (Latin) America are locked up because of drugs...."

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com
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Monday, 5 March 2012

SNC Lavalin’s poisoned pens

One of the oddities of covering breaking news is that you receive the odd “poison pen” e-mail. Specifically, while La politica es la politica has covered the Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier affair we have been receiving e-mails concerning SNC-Lavalin, the Canadian engineering firm that contracted Ms. Vanier for a “fact-finding” mission to Libya.

Ms. Vanier is now in jail in Chetumal, Mexico, accused by the Mexican authorities of being the ringleader in a scheme to bring fallen Libyan dictator Moamer Gaddafi's third son, Saadi Gaddafi, 38, to Mexico. La politica es la politica has conducted extensive interviews with people familiar with Ms. Vanier and her circumstances. Whatever one may think of the amount of money she was paid, and the work she was doing, one thing is now clear to us: the Mexican authorities and INSET, Canada’s “Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams”, have been sent on a wild goose chase.

And, in chasing that goose – and in mixing our metaphors to show how confused everyone is about what the hell is going on – the Canadians and Mexicans alike have been chucked down the rabbit hole by one unreliable source, Gary Peters, who provided “CP” (close protection) to Ms. Vanier in Canada and Libya. La politica es la politica will in due course lay out the broader story that confirms Ms. Vanier’s innocence, but for now we have to make do with a poison-pen report on that sloppiest of Canadian companies, SNC-Lavalin. The multi-billion dollar company is in the midst of a class-action suit for “alleged misrepresentations”, which is code for the recent revelation that its construction wing booked $35 million in undocumented payments last year. 


So, what have the poisoned pens been telling us?

Surprise: Former SNC-Lavalin executives Stephane Roy and ben Aissa did not resign – they were forced out, as have been many executives in the past. Officially, sure, they were given the option to resign, and they took it. But it was either resign or get fired; there was no door number three that represented a continued career at SNC-Lavalin.

Some of the e-mails we receive are quite eloquent, even funny, such as:

As an SNC employee on the Benina Airport project at Benghazi I'm starting to understand now why we were fed stale Fruit Loops for breakfast on a half billion dollar project and why the Gaddafi project manager had two inch white shag carpeting in his construction project office and his own marbled floor/walls etc in his private eating facility.

Some of the recounting is dire, and shows the unfathomable depth of cynicism toward SNC-Lavalin:

I understand now why we were not evacuated before 24 Feb 2011 (which SNC had no part in btw, we managed our exit on a British warship via SAS). Saadi Gaddafi would have been reassuring SNC that they would slaughter all the protestors and there was no need to evac all employees. He was in Benghazi during this time.

And despite our belief in Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier’s innocence in the non-plot to bring Saadi Gaddafi to Mexico, we can’t find much disagreement with this next post, which points to the absurdity of attempting to mediate the conflict between the Gaddafis and the rebels, and of accepting any “evidence” and “testimony” in areas held by the regime, in which authorities could manipulate a terrified populace to perform on demand. This resulted in poor analysis of the role of NATO, too, which is offensive to those citizens of member states who are proud of the role played by their armed forces.

To quote from an email, with typos cleaned up:

This report Ms Vanier created is just nonsense, I have a copy. Now I say that because I worked closely from April thru August with people who were on the ground in area of Jalu (gialo). I worked closely 24/7 with German contact calling in air strikes when Gaddafi thugs were attacking Jalu (I recall 30 April first strike when NATO hit convoy of 45 vehicles and the last strikes in August) but NATO did not publicize these actions. I transferred ground GPS coordinates to 'eye in the sky' (23 sat passes per day) for verification then they forward to NATO planning. All the Libyan people thank the countries who supported the no fly and the air strikes to prevent killing by Gaddafi of more citizens.

Here is more, for what it’s worth:

I have documentation of times when hospitals and schools were used by Gaddafi soldiers to hide ammo and tanks and to hide from NATO which were then hit by air strikes. There were no patients or children in these places it was the thugs. In fact I have been told of times when pilots (Canadian, for example) refused to complete a bombing mission because of sighting of civilians in this area. Gaddafi would plant evidence for example clothing and little child toys. In some cases even the body of civilians that Gaddafi had killed was placed at these bomb sites. It is propaganda that Ms Vanier created for the regime. It’s all about the money, everything is about greed and power. This bodyguard says he was well paid and look at how much she submitted for...Almost half million dollars?? For what? This report? Nooooo...This Mr ben Aissa, bad news this guy, he stormed into our safety manager’s office one day and screamed at him for 30+ minutes. He is the main problem and Gaddafi supporter for the money and you will see big bribes and payoffs exposed I hope in the future.

For what it’s worth, that email came in before SNC-Lavalin started its investigation into the $35 million improperly “expensed” from its construction arm.

The Fruit Loops seem to have left a lasting impression – they might have an effect on you, too, if it was all you had for breakfast for weeks on end:

Yes we were fed a bowl of Fruit Loops for breakfast for weeks (yes, I do have photos ha ha) and when they are all gone then a banana for breakfast. This is a major construction project but all management is from Tunisia so I think maybe Montreal can’t know what we are being fed. When some guys from Montreal office came to visit in January 2011 they seemed shocked at what they eat for breakfast (6am) then wait till noon for some real food. So maybe somebody skimmed off from the food budget, this is what I think. I will say the Tunisian people I worked with were very good people, it was management who were a problem. Then of course on 20 Feb we were overrun at Benina by militia and everything taken food, vehicles, and all heavy equipment placed on runways to prevent more mercenaries from landing so maybe that saved us.

And for those convinced of Ms. Vanier’s guilt, or simply suspicious of the money and planes involved – (I had a news editor to whom I sometimes feed info laugh spontaneously as I tried to say how there could be an innocent explanation for Ms. Vanier’s role, “Come, on!”) – then this e-mail from an SNC-Lavalin employee in North Africa will resonate:

My question has been why SNC would hire this woman who knows nothing about Libya to travel in July to view these sights and create this report of propaganda when all along there are still SNC employees who are in Tripoli who could accurately tell Montreal the security situation? By July everybody knew the regime was going down...it just seems so odd to send this woman. Maybe a report is just an excuse to be there? Why did Roy decline to pay Ms Vanier for this huge bill of $395,000 and say that her work was unsatisfactory or incomplete? And what was this huge bill for?

There are theories like the one provided below that come close to the thesis that La politic es la politica is developing –

I think SNC did know what the situation was in Libya during July and perhaps they hire Ms Vanier as a decoy to get Peters into Libya so they can try to remove the family to safe location. This could be arranged or financed by ben Aissa because of this close association.

That makes some sense, except that it assumes SNC-Lavalin actually cares about anyone, and there is little evidence to support that. In fact, with the regime on the way out, one wonders why they would bother with Saadi. Unless, of course, ben Aissa was freelancing his own interests, and on SNC’s deep pockets – he knew that Saadi still had piles of money stashed somewhere, and was therefore happy to extend a lifeline via Gary Peters (though La politica es la politica has some evidence that Mr., Peters possibly did not drive Saadi to the border with Niger).

More opinion about the report and NATO:

...this report is not worth anything it’s just propaganda that the bodyguard or regime would request her to write to make it appear NATO was killing hundreds or thousands of civilians and children. I remember getting reports that NATO was using precise guided kinetic concrete bombs to hit tanks in Tripoli so there was no damage to surrounding buildings or people. Remember all the western media was being confined to the Rixos hotel so they could not report what was really happening. Everything points towards ben Aissa masterminding all this and maybe Ms Vanier was blinded by the thought she could make a lot of easy money through a connection with this bodyguard. She just seems like the wrong person to be travelling into a war zone, I think this bodyguard must have convinced her everything would be fine and she would make a lot of money from Saadi to tell a story of lies to convince govts to stop supporting NATO actions.

There is a lot of common sense in that email, but it might give too much credit to Gary Peters. In fact, La politica es la politica knows that Gary Peters was stripped of the contract that Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier had with SNC-Lavalin – both she and SNC-Lavalin were unhappy with his work, particularly after his second trip in August, when he claims to have taken Saadi to the border with Niger. That is perhaps not possible:  Saadi was moved there on September 11 when Mr. Peters was by some reports back in Cambridge, Ontario, and under INSET scrutiny. Mr. Peters has refused to sign a statement of facts for Ms. Vanier’s lawyer. And he has been caught out on many lies, one of which is a claim by the New Zealand-born Peters, who grew up in Australia, that he trained with the Australian Army.

Gary Peters - He doesn't always tell the truth

We have, now, the beginning of a motive from the one man demolition crew that is Gary Peters: he’s been cut off from the gravy train, and blames Ms. Vanier. Suddenly, Border Services is ripping planes apart and “anonymous” is leaking information to the Mexican government. There is much, much, more to this, and much that La politica es la politica has that it is not releasing, including an explanation for the forged Mexican documents. But we must wait until more dots are connected. The truly sad part of this story is that a life – lives, really, because an entire family is being affected – are being wrecked because the Mexicans and the Canadians can’t get themselves down from the magic tree they’ve grown and then climbed into.

Money makes the world go around, but it can also stop us in our tracks:

I know people from SNC who worked in Libya for years are not happy about Gaddafi being removed because now they don’t know if they can return to work. They are all blinded by money. I hope all the truth surfaces and these people will be punished if they are proven to have committed crimes. I feel sorry for these parents of Ms Vanier as they must suffer terrible to see her in a Mexican prison and now her financial problems will destroy her business. This bodyguard must know how much wealth Saadi was able to carry to Niger...gold, US currency etc...all these tons of gold Gaddafi had, even some hidden at the Tripoli airport....money money money greed... all stolen from Libyan people.

There is more to come from the poison pen(s). Stay tuned.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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Thursday, 1 March 2012

“Josefina” closes in on Peña Nieto, and president Calderón calls for a unified response to crime

It's a bit of a shocker.

We reported recently in a lengthy post that Josefina Vasquez Mota of Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN) was a stalker candidate, ready to take out the current favourite Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

In indulging in such punditry, we knew we were a voice in the wilderness.

Why? Because up until now Peña Nieto has had a huge lead in the polls. In November of last year he had a 25 point lead over Vasquez Mota , with  44% of those polled supporting him, compared to only 19% for Vasquez Mota.

This seemed insurmountable, particularly when considering Mexico’s hugely unpopular “war on drugs”, an initiative of the PAN president Calderón, which Vasquez Mota has said would continue under her presidency.

Would anyone choose her to pick up this level of support? We did, because we knew that upon examination Peña Nieto would reveal himself as being woefully inadequate.

The quarterly survey from GEA/ISA now shows that that 36% would vote for the PRI candidate while 29% would vote for Vasquez Mota of the PAN.

 Something to smile about

That’s not momentum – that’s a drag race.

But, given the past two elections, there has to be a wall of sorts where die-hard PRI support kicks in.  What we do know is that that level has, historically, been below what was required to ensure victory for the PAN. In other words, if Vasquez Mota can capture that support, and particularly if she can get the younger demographic, she will win.

This is the first time that the distance between Vasquez Mota and Peña Nieto has been in single digits.

The poll shows Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution  (PRD) in third place with 17% of potential voters preferring his candidacy.

The study was carried out between February 17-19th by polling 1,000 people in their homes; it has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Mexicans will go to the polls on the 1st of July to choose a new president. The PAN has been the governing presidential party since 2000.

The PRI is trying to regain the presidency which it lost in 2000 after seven consecutive decades of executive rule. As readers of La politica es la politica already now, we don’t think they are ready, particularly with Peña Nieto at the helm.

 The PRI leader Peña Nieto. "Gel Boy" is not up to the job.

Calderón calls out money laundering, weapons sales

President Calderón called on all countries in the Americas to create a united front to combat money laundering as a way of cutting the flow of financial resources to organized crime syndicates.

Calderón Hinojosa claimed that it was the only way that governments will be able to weaken criminal networks.

While inaugurating the Hemispheric Meeting against Transnational Organized Crime, Felipe Calderón affirmed that the sale of weapons in the United States in directly related to the levels of violence in Mexico.

“In the last five years alone, we have seized 140,000 weapons from criminals, 84,000 of which have been assault rifles, AR-15s, and AK-47s. Certainly they haven’t all been manufactured in the United States, but 80 percent of them have been demonstrably sold in US gun stores,” said Calderón.

From the office of the Secretary of Foreign Relations (SRE), Calderón Hinojosa stated that organized crime elements are looking for territorial control of communities in order to take over all illicit and legal earnings available.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com