The Mounties only had a phone number and some voice recordings to go on when they launched their investigation into the 2008 kidnapping of journalist Amanda Lindhout in Somalia.
Showcasing their new-found global reach, a team travelled to Africa to slowly track and then covertly approach one of the alleged captors. Ultimately, sources said, the RCMP relied on an ingenious “business proposal” to get him to travel to Canada so they could make an arrest, seven years after the hostage taking.
The ruse involved an offer of money, but also getting the suspect to believe he could have a new life – as an international author. Breaking the long-standing mystery over the police strategy that was put in place years ago, sources told The Globe and Mail that the RCMP brought Ali Omar Ader to Canada last June “by offering him a book deal.”
Ms. Lindhout’s autobiographical take on her ordeal, A House in the Sky: A Memoir, has spent months on various bestseller lists, and could now be turned into a movie. Mr. Ader seemingly thought he would have an audience for his own book, on the history of his homeland of Somalia.
The book deal was the perfect vehicle to get him to come to Canada, but also persuade him to provide his personal account of the kidnapping to undercover investigators in the final stages of the probe, sources said.
Mr. Ader was arrested a few days after he landed in Canada three months ago, when the RCMP announced it was using extraterritorial provisions in the Criminal Code to lay a charge of hostage-taking for a crime that happened thousands of kilometres away from Canada.
The arrest highlighted the RCMP’s growing interest in prosecuting cases in which Canadian citizens are victims of crimes on foreign soil. Last week, the RCMP announced it was charging a Syrian colonel, George Salloum, for inflicting torture upon Canadian engineer Maher Arar in 2002 and 2003. In both cases, the investigations were complex and long, with the one involving Mr. Arar lasting a decade.
Col. Salloum’s whereabouts are unknown, whereas Mr. Ader is in jail in Ottawa, awaiting a bail hearing.
The investigation into Ms. Lindhout’s kidnapping was code-named Project Slype, conducted using undercover operators, surveillance and wiretap interceptions, RCMP Assistant Commissioner James Malizia told reporters in June.
“He was one of the main negotiators within the group involved in this,” Assistant Commissioner Malizia said in reference to Mr. Ader. “This investigation posed a number of significant challenges as it was carried out in an extremely high-risk environment, in a country plagued with political instability.”
An official involved in the investigation would only say at the time that the luring of Mr. Ader to Canada was done with the help of an “interesting manoeuvre.” In recent weeks, sources have provided key details of the investigation, allowing The Globe to piece together how the Mounties got the man who was allegedly known to Ms. Lindhout as “Adam” during her 15 months in captivity.
Ms. Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were abducted from a road outside Mogadishu in August, 2008. They were released in November, 2009, after a nightmarish ordeal in which they were malnourished and beaten, and Ms. Lindhout was sexually assaulted.
The goal of the kidnapping was to obtain a ransom, which was eventually paid in a privately arranged deal.
“Adam was definitely a leader and decision-maker,” Ms. Lindhout said in an interview in June. She described him as “slightly deranged” – a man of “bizarre” actions, who terrified her by announcing that he would make her his wife.
“[Adam] was erratic and bullying and fully complicit in my suffering,” she said. “It was he who collected the contact information for our families and who made most of the calls to them over the course of the next 14 1/2 months, demanding that a ransom be paid.”
During those conversations, “Adam” sometimes told her mother that he wanted to visit Canada, she said.
Mr. Ader, 38, seemed to be getting ready to travel to Canada of late: Among the accounts he followed on Twitter were the pages for Destination Canada and the Canadian Tourism Commission.
But he was not aware of the backroom moves that allowed him to get into the country, sources said. The RCMP had to get other federal agencies in the loop, including Citizenship and Immigration Canada to issue a visa to the citizen of Somalia, and the Canada Border Services Agency to let him into the country to complete the book deal.
The Mounties made a pitch to other departments that bringing Mr. Ader in was in the “public interest,” sources said, arguing the police had to showcase its ability to investigate hostage takings anywhere around the world, and dedicate the resources necessary to prosecuting the cases in Canada.
Canada does not have an extradition treaty with Somalia, thus the need to try to bring Mr. Ader to Canada to arrest him. However, the RCMP took a risk, knowing that if they eventually fail to obtain a conviction against him, the government will face serious problems forcing him out of the country.
Mr. Ader’s next court date is Sept. 11, when he will appear by video-conference to set a date for his bail hearing. His lawyer in Ottawa, Samir Adam, did not respond to a number of messages for comment on the matter.
Sources said that as soon as the Mounties were informed of the kidnapping in 2008, they dispatched a unit in Somalia – working with Australian authorities – to help in the liberation of Ms. Lindhout and Mr. Brennan, but also begin accumulating evidence against her kidnappers.
The starting point was minimal: a phone number and a recording of the voice of the man who spoke on behalf of the captors. Once they identified who he was, the Mounties used the fact that Mr. Ader described himself as an author and head of a publishing house in Mogadishu to mount their book-deal deception.
Over time, the RCMP obtained photos of Mr. Ader, including a passport picture that was shown to Ms. Lindhout and Mr. Brennan to verify his identity. Sources said that in his few days on Canadian soil in June, Mr. Ader was the target of large-scale surveillance by the RCMP.
At his news conference last June, Assistant Commissioner Malizia thanked Ms. Lindhout and Mr. Brennan for providing witness statements that assisted in advancing the investigation.
“Victims and witnesses must relive events that they should not have had to endure in the first place,” he said.
Ms. Lindhout, who now lives in Canmore, Alta., said she was stunned when an RCMP agent told her that Mr. Ader had been arrested last June for her kidnapping ordeal in Somalia. Her knees buckled and she fell to the floor, crying and repeating, “Thank you, thank you.”