Saudi hunt for exiled spymaster Al Jabri comes to Malta

The Saudi Arabian government’s hunt for its former spymaster has arrived in Malta, with a bid to stop the naturalised Maltese Saad bin Khalid Al Jabri from selling his Tigné Point apartment in Sliema

Saudi ruler Mohammed Bin Salman (left) and Saad Al Jabri
Saudi ruler Mohammed Bin Salman (left) and Saad Al Jabri

The Saudi Arabian government’s hunt for its former spymaster has arrived in Malta, with a bid to stop the naturalised Maltese Saad bin Khalid Al Jabri from selling his Tigné Point apartment in Sliema.

Jabri is a former major-general, minister of state and long-time adviser to deposed Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef of Saudi Arabia, who has been living in exile in Canada since May 2017. He acquired Maltese citizenship in 2016 through the Individual Investor Programme.

This is the latest volley in a bitter dispute that has been playing out in courtrooms in the United States and Canada between the former intelligence official and the crown prince.

In 2020, Jabri accused crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman in a civil suit in U.S. federal court of sending agents in 2018 to Canada to kill him. In January 2021, a group of Saudi state-owned firms alleged in a lawsuit in Canada that Jabri embezzled billions of dollars of state funds while working at the Ministry of Interior.

Known by the initials MbS, the crown prince and de factor rule of Saudi Arabia, has tightened his grip on power in recent years. Jabri was a long-time aide to another royal, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, whom MbS ousted as heir to the throne in a 2017 palace coup.

In the Maltese court case, the Saudi-registered Sakab Saudi Holding Company filed a warrant of prohibitory injunction against Jabri and his company Ten Leaves Management, a company registered in the Cayman Islands, to stop them from transferring the right to use an apartment at Tigné Point, Sliema.

The sixth-floor apartment in the luxury development was purchased in 2018.

Sakab, part of a group of 17 companies set up by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, claims Jabri used offshore structures to hide illicit profits to enrich his family, and purchase properties around the world.

Jabri is accused of using Sakab as a vehicle to distribute €6 billion in funds to other commercial entities between 2008 and 2017, funnelled to other members of the Sakab group, allegedly on Jabri’s instructions. The vast majority of the financial transactions were “off the books” and not declared in the official accounts

“It is in the humble understanding of the applicants, and this always according to the evidence in hand, that Ten Leaves bought the properties using funds misappropriated through a fraudulent scheme as part of Jabri’s efforts to hide and launder misappropriated monies,” Sakab, which is represnted in Malta by lawyer Louis Cassar Pullicino, said.

Canadian lawsuit

In January 2021, the Saudi accused Jabri that he colluded with his former boss, bin Nayef, and received $1.2bn in misappropriated funds, with the former crown price allegedly transferring at least $55m to Jabri in illicit payments. The filing came months after the former intelligence officer himself filed a lawsuit in the United States against MBS, alleging that a 50-person team known as the ‘Tiger Squad’ was sent to kill him in Canada.

Jabri claims evidence used to support the allegations was likely obtained through torture. His daughter Hissah al-Muzaini, says her husband, Salem al-Muzaini, was detained by Saudi authorities in 2017 and 2018, and also tortured. The affidavit says her husband was questioned about financial allegations against Jabri and about the companies that were allegedly used to commit fraud.

In an affidavit, Muzaini describes several instances of her husband’s torture, including Saudi security having “whipped him, hit him with iron bars, put him in stress positions, deprived him of food, electrocuted him, and humiliated him by making him crawl on the floor and bark like a dog.”

In another affidavit, Jabri defended himself against the fraud allegations, saying he was paid a total of $385m between 2008 and 2017 for his work for the kingdom. “These payments must be viewed in the context of the practice of customary Royal patronage in the Saudi government, where the absolute monarch is also the head of state and public officials are generously rewarded for their service and loyalty, in amounts that significantly exceed the official public salaries.”

US lawsuit

A rare U.S. Justice Department filing in a Massachusetts court in April noted Jabri’s intention to “describe information concerning alleged national security activities.”

The American government is considering whether it will participate in the action in this action, saying it was prepared to “provide further information” to the court in secret.

Sakab was part of a network of front companies to provide cover for clandestine security operations with the United States. In order to prove his innocence, Jabri said the court would need to probe Sakab’s finances, including how they were used to “finance sensitive programmes” operated in partnership with the CIA, the U.S. National Security Agency and the U.S. Defense Department.

Jabri worked directly with the CIA and the White House, former CIA official Philip Mudd wrote in a U.S. court affidavit. “When the United States had actionable intelligence or tactical information, we gave it to Dr. Saad.”