Federal lawyers move to shield alleged secrets in civil court case of ex-Saudi spy

·3 min read

OTTAWA — The Canadian government is seeking a court injunction to prevent a former Saudi intelligence official from disclosing allegedly sensitive security information in a civil proceeding against him.

In an application to the Federal Court, government lawyers request an order under the Canada Evidence Act confirming a prohibition on the disclosure of material as well as an injunction forbidding Saad Aljabri or his lawyers from filing certain information in Ontario court.

It is the latest twist in the legal saga of Aljabri, who alleges Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler sent a hit squad to Canada to assassinate him.

A group of Saudi companies claims in Ontario Superior Court that Aljabri, who now lives in Toronto, embezzled billions of dollars. The companies were allegedly set up by the Saudi government as a front for covert counterterrorism purposes.

Aljabri denies wrongdoing and says the companies are now controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who took power in 2017.

Aljabri, who worked for years in Saudi intelligence, alleges the Ontario court action is part of an effort to harm and intimidate him because he was a key supporter of former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Aljabri filed a court action in the U.S. two years ago, in which he claimed bin Salman dispatched a squad to Canada to assassinate him shortly after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October 2018. Aljabri alleges the plot against him was thwarted by Canadian authorities.

In addition, the Saudi companies filed a civil action in the United States, parallel to the Ontario one, against Aljabri. The U.S. government asserted state secrets privilege in those proceedings, prompting a court to dismiss the action late last year.

In support of an effort to have the Ontario proceedings stayed, John Adair, a lawyer for Aljabri, has indicated he will file a notice of motion and an affidavit with the provincial court.

The materials "will likely contain information that overlaps the information excluded from the U.S. proceedings on the basis of state secrets privilege," says the Canadian government's motion for an injunction in Federal Court.

On May 24, federal lawyers advised Adair that the material he intends to file in the bid for an Ontario court stay "constitutes sensitive or potentially injurious information" and that he was required to give notice to the attorney general under the Canada Evidence Act.

Adair disputed that the Act applied in the circumstances and insisted the U.S. government would have to intervene in the Canadian proceedings to protect the information, the federal submission says.

On May 31, the attorney general received notice from an official at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service under the Canada Evidence Act that she believed sensitive information may be disclosed in the Ontario proceedings. The same day, Adair was informed and told there was a statutory prohibition against disclosure of the material.

In a June 1 letter, Adair stuck to his position that the Act did not apply to his motion material, which he still intended to file.

The federal submission to the court says that since he "does not accept the clear legal authority" of the Canada Evidence Act, "an injunction is necessary to prevent Mr. Adair from publicly filing information that could injure national security."

The federal lawyers say the attorney general intends to apply under the Act for a full hearing on the information at the centre of the case, but "that process will take a little time."

"Thus, the need for the injunction remains pressing."

Email correspondence on the court file indicates that discussions took place among the lawyers early this month, and Adair said he would not file any of the material in question before June 13.

Adair was not immediately available for comment. It is unclear when a hearing on the federal motion for an injunction might take place.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2022.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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