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Mount Forest woman accused as ringleader in Gaddafi smuggling plot

by Chris Daponte

WELLINGTON CTY. - A Mount Forest woman remains under house arrest in Mexico after she was accused of being the ringleader in an alleged plot to hide and relocate one of Moammar Gaddafi’s sons.

Consultant and mediator Cynthia Vanier was one of three individuals arrested early last month and accused of trying to smuggle Saadi Gaddafi from Niger into Mexico.

On Dec. 7, Mexico’s Interior Minister Alejandro Poire named Vanier the ringleader of the plot, which he said also involved two Mexicans and a Danish man.

Poire said during a press conference that Vanier was in “direct contact with the Gaddafi family” and he called her the “leader of the group.”

Several individuals with personal and professional ties to Vanier, the president of Vanier Consulting Ltd. in Mount Forest, have publicly stated they have their doubts about the mother of two’s involvement in the plot.

Her Toronto-based lawyer Paul Copeland told the Advertiser there was little he could say on the matter.

“I’m still waiting to hear back from the lawyers in Mexico for Ms. Vanier,” Copeland said.

“I don’t know very much about what’s going on down there other than what I’ve seen in the media.”

Earlier in the week Copeland told CBC News Vanier denies having any role in the plot. He also said she owns a condominium in Mexico and was vacationing there at the time of her arrest.

Copeland acknowledged in the same CBC interview that Vanier was hired by SNC Lavalin, a construction and engineering firm, and travelled to the Tripoli area in the summer to report on the security situation in Libya.

“She made one fact-finding mission to Libya for SCN  Lavalin. She did not do anything to assist al-Saadi Gaddafi flee Libya or to try to help him get to Mexico,” Copeland told CBC News.

Vanier is being held under Mexico’s “preventative arrest” laws after being accused in connection with the alleged smuggling and money laundering plot. It’s unclear what specific charges she could face.

Poire said investigators received a tip in September about the plan to relocate Saadi Gaddafi, one of the sons of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Saadi Gaddafi was subject to a travel ban and asset freeze by the United Nations Security Council and was also wanted by Interpol on what the BBC has called “allegations of misappropriating properties through force and armed intimidation when he headed the Libyan Football Federation.”

Poire said the plot to relocate him to Mexico’s Pacific coast included fake travel papers and bank accounts, as well as the purchase of a property near Puerto Vallarta that was to serve as a safe house before Gaddafi was to flee to a mansion in the beach resort area of Punta Mita.

Also included in the plot, according to Poire, were false Mexican identities for Gaddafi and his family members, and chartered flights of private planes in several countries, including Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

A woman answering the phone at the Vanier Consulting office in Mount Forest told the Advertiser she did not want to be identified.

“All I know is that they will be doing a press release at the time of their choosing,” she said. She did not offer any other comments.

Several Advertiser calls to the Vanier  residence were not answered.

However, several of Vanier’s family members came to her defence recently in the National Post.

“She’s the straightest person who ever lived and I can’t tell you how out of character this would have to be,” said Michael Vanier, Cynthia’s brother in law.

“Everybody’s talking like Cyndy’s done this; it’s established. Nobody’s giving her the benefit of the doubt or even asking for any evidence. I mean, this is crazy.”

His wife, Denise Robb, told the National Post, “We don’t even think it’s possible for her to be a ringleader or criminal, but possibly, naively mixed up with somebody who is. She might be guilty of being too trusting.”

Cynthia Vanier (previously  Cynthia Elder) married Pierre Vanier eight years ago and the couple settled in settled in Mount Forest, now the home of Vanier Consulting.

The company’s website says Cynthia is a “negotiator, mediator, fact finder and consultant” with a specialty in First Nation issues.


December 16, 2011


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