A former high-ranking minister in the government of Saudi Arabia who is currently exiled in Canada and who claimed to be the victim of a state-sponsored assassination attempt is one of the names which has appeared on the most-recent list of people granted Maltese citizenship.
Saad bin Khalid Al-Jabri currently lives in Toronto along with most of his family with round the clock security supervision after he claims to have been the target of Saudi state-sponsored assassination attempts. The failure of these attempts has not stopped the state’s efforts in getting him to return to the country.
In March 2020, two of his children – Omar, 22, and Sarah, 20 – were arrested in Saudi Arabia, which the family say was done in an effort to bait Al-Jabri back to Saudi Arabia and be killed. Both Omar and Sarah haven’t been seen since.
An analysis of the most recently published list of new Maltese citizens by The Malta Independent on Sunday can now reveal that Saad bin Khalid Al-Jabri – along with other members of his family, including his wife Nadiyah and his two abducted children Omar and Sarah – are in fact Maltese citizens.
It is likely – although not confirmed – that the Al-Jabris acquired Maltese citizenship through the controversial Individual Investor Programme.
Who is Saad bin Khalid Al-Jabri?
A 61-year-old with a PhD in computer engineering and artificial intelligence, Al-Jabri worked within Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior for over two decades, becoming one of the most important links between the gulf country and western intelligence agencies.
A former western intelligence officer told the BBC how in 2010, Al-Jabri had helped save hundreds of lives after alerting MI6 of an Al-Qaeda bomb smuggled into a cargo plane scheduled to go from East Midlands airport to Chicago.
“If that had gone off as planned over Chicago hundreds would have been killed,” said the former intelligence officer.
Despite being credited by many in the west for transforming Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism efforts, he was dismissed by now Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had only just been appointed as Minister of Defence, on 10 September 2015, after Salman felt that in meeting the then-CIA Director John Brennan and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Al-Jabri was plotting against him with then-Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef.
Nayef would be deposed two years later, with Salman being appointed Crown Prince on 21 June 2017. A so-called ‘purge’ which saw the arrest of a number of prominent Saudi princes, government ministers, and businessmen be arrested in relation to what was called a corruption crackdown soon followed.
Al-Jabri was one of those sought after by Saudi authorities over allegations of wasting state funds, but by then, he had already fled with most of his family. Only his children Sarah and Omar did not leave the country, as they were still waiting for their US student visas to be approved.
One of Al-Jabris other children – Khalid – told The Guardian in an interview last June that as soon as Salman took the throne, the family told Sarah and Omar to leave the country, but that they were then blocked at the airport gates “for security reasons”. Salman had only been announced as the new Crown Prince for an hour before that.
“The guy’s first order was banning a couple of kids from travel. It tells you what intention he had with my dad,” Khalid said, adding that his father was told that the only way his children would be allowed to leave the country was if he went back to Saudi Arabia.
In March 2020, the two were summoned by Saudi security officials and pressured to try and get their father to return back to the country. They have not been seen or heard from since.
Saad Al-Jabri meanwhile is currently living in Toronto, Canada where he now has round-the-clock security. The security came after he was, according to a lawsuit he filed last August against Salman, the intended target of the famed Saudi Tiger Squad, which had just allegedly assassinated journalist and outspoken government critic Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
The squad were blocked by airport officials and not allowed to enter Canada, but Al-Jabri claims that he was the subject of other subsequent assassination attempts, with Canadian media reporting of another attempted attack just five months ago.
Citizenship in Malta
Saad Al-Jabri, along with his wife and children, appears in the list of new Maltese citizens published in the Government Gazette last week, which covers the citizenships granted in 2019.
It is likely that he and his family acquired citizenship through the Individual Investor Programme (IIP) – Malta’s passport-selling scheme. This cannot be fully confirmed because the Government Gazette does not distinguish between those new citizens who obtain citizenship through naturalisation, marriage, purchase, or otherwise – however Al-Jabri does not have any known ties to the island besides his citizenship.
The IIP was established in 2014, allowing people to effectively buy a Maltese passport for themselves and their dependents, with the condition that they have been residents in Malta for a year prior and will continue to invest money in the country.
As per the law governing the IIP – Legal Notice 47 of 2014 – one of the general requirements to qualify for citizenship under this programme is for the applicant to commits himself to provide proof of residence in Malta. Another requirement is that the applicant must pay a fee of €650,000 which is then deposited into the National Social Development Fund.
The law also reads that the applicant or any of his or her dependents cannot be persons listed with Interpol at the time of the application. Saad Al-Jabri was, according to the New York Times listed in Interpol’s system as of December 2017 after Saudi Arabia filed a diffusion. His name was subsequently removed from the system in July 2018 after Interpol determined his listing to be “politically motivated”.
Applicants who are subject of a criminal investigation shall not be approved for citizenship as per the same legal notice, however there is a provision in the law that allows Identity Malta to reconsider this if there are “special circumstances” which are demonstrated by the applicant. In that case, Identity Malta, or the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency as of 2018, issue a reasoned opinion on why the candidate should be considered for approval, and the application is referred to the Minister – who has the sole authority to grant the application or otherwise.
The first round of the IIP has since closed, although the government is committed to launching a second round of the programme, this time with some amendments and despite the fact that the European Commission has launched infringement proceedings on the matter.
The amendments, however, do not include the express statement of who acquires their citizenship through the IIP.