BY ANDREW DUFFY, POSTMEDIA NETWORK
In June 2015, Somali national Ali Omar Ader was arrested in Ottawa at the end of a remarkable five-year undercover operation designed to lure him to Canada. He will stand trial in October for his alleged role in the kidnapping of Canadian Amanda Lindhout. Last week, for the first time, an Ottawa courtroom heard details of that RCMP undercover operation, dubbed Project Slype.
Nov. 26, 2009: Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan are released from captivity after $600,000 in ransom is paid by their families. They had been abducted just outside of Mogadishu, Somalia by a criminal gang, and held for 460 days. Lindhout revealed in her best-selling memoir, A House in the Sky, that she had been tortured and raped during her captivity.
January 2010: The principal negotiator for the Somali gang during the hostage crisis — a man who identified himself as “Adam” — calls Lindhout’s mother out of the blue, seeking to get in touch with Amanda.
June 25, 2010: An RCMP undercover officer, claiming to be a representative of the Lindhout family, cold calls Adam to find out what he wants. Unbidden, Adam begins to relate details of the Lindhout kidnapping, and reveals that he has letters — written by Lindhout during her captivity — that he wants to sell to her for $15,000 U.S. He also tells the undercover officer, A.K., that he wants to write a book about Somalia’s troubled history.
June 29, 2010: A.K. calls Adam and tells him that Lindhout may be interested in purchasing the letters, but she needs more time to think about it. Adam offers to send some digital copies of the letters to highlight their value.
July 2010: Adam sends two scanned pages from Lindhout’s cache of letters.
Sept. 2, 2010: A.K. sends Adam an email, asking for more information about the letters; he also expresses interest in the book idea. In his reply, Adam says his book about recent Somali history, A Slow Genocide, will make him a millionaire.
Sept. 4, 2010: A.K. tells Adam in an email that the Lindhout family does not have much money. He asks Adam for a summary of his book, and offers to share it with a friend in the publishing industry.
Nov. 6, 2010: Following weeks of talk about the book project, Adam sends 16 pages of Lindhout letters. Discussions now focus on the book.
December 2010: A.K. tells Adam that a publisher is interested in his book. Meanwhile, Adam reveals that his real name is Ali Omar Ader. He emails the table of contents from his book and a copy of his degree from Somalia’s African University; he tells A.K. that he’s interested in pursuing a master’s program in international relations.
Dec. 20, 2010: A.K. tells Ader that he’s doing some research for him on master’s programs in Canada.
April 21, 2011: A.K. sends Ader a list of five international relations programs available at Canadian universities.
May 9, 2011: In reply to Ader’s questions about gaining asylum in Canada, A.K. says he doesn’t know much about the refugee process, and directs him to the United Nations. A.K. also relates that he has received positive feedback from the publisher.
Aug. 9, 2011: Ader forwards to A.K. an email from the UN, saying he’s not eligible for the international refugee program because he has not been displaced from his country. He continues to reiterate a desire to get his family — he has a wife and five children — out of Somalia.
March 21, 2012: A.K. floats the idea of signing a contract with Ader to work as his book agent. He tells Ader about his successful consulting firm, Intercon Communications, and says he would charge him a 10-per-cent fee rather than his usual 15 per cent.
April 2012: A.K. raises the possibility of a business meeting in Dubai.
Sept. 11, 2012: Ader sends an email to A.K., asking if the Dubai meeting will take place. A.K. tells him that he needs a completed book manuscript before they can meet to discuss next steps. A.K. later informs Ader that he will be in India in May, and that they can meet on the island nation of Mauritius.
May 31, 2013: A.K. and Ader meet for the first time in Mauritius at the luxurious Hilton Hotel. The RCMP arrange for Ader to travel to Mauritius, and pay for his plane ticket, hotel and expenses. They also enlist the co-operation of police on the island. At a breakfast meeting, Ader tells A.K. that he was approached by one of the gang members who had kidnapped Lindhout several hours after her abduction. Ader says he was asked to work as a translator and negotiator for the group, but did not have any advanced knowledge of the kidnapping. He says he became “the group’s brains,” and filmed a hostage video sent to Al-Jazeera. The two men later sign a contract, which includes a disclosure clause: Ader repeats his story to fulfil the clause.
July 9, 2013: In response to more appeals for help in securing asylum, A.K. tells Ader that he has no government contacts. By this time, Ader is calling A.K. his “brother” “and “best friend.”
December 2013: A.K. advises Ader that, once he signs a book contract, he’ll get a $10,000 advance. He suggests the book money will solve his security concerns.
2014: A.K. tells Ader that he has suffered a heart attack, and that their book plan has to be put on hold while he recovers. In reality, the RCMP need more time to solve legal and logistical issues, and to put the pieces in place to bring Ader to Canada.
June 9, 2015: Ader lands in Halifax and is put on a private jet to Ottawa. He meets A.K. at an airport hotel. As a welcoming gift, A.K. gives Ader a copy of Lindhout’s book, A House in the Sky. Ader tells A.K. he wants to apologize to Lindhout and explain his actions in Somalia. A.K. has told Ader that Lindhout has forgiven him.
June 10, 2015: A.K. and Ader meet in a hotel boardroom to discuss the book deal with “Chris,” an undercover RCMP officer playing the role of a publishing executive with a fictitious firm, Catalina Publishing. The meeting is secretly videotaped by an RCMP undercover team. With A.K. acting as Ader’s book agent, Chris walks them through a detailed contract that includes clauses about royalties, reserved publication rights, copyright infringement and dispute arbitration. The $234,000 deal includes a $10,000 signing bonus, the promise of future books and the possibly of a documentary on the Lindhout kidnapping.
In keeping with a disclosure clause, Chris asks Ader to tell him the full story of his involvement in the Lindhout kidnapping in order to protect his firm from negative publicity. Ader unfolds his story again: He was approached by a member of the gang that had abducted Lindhout and Australian Nigel Brennan; he agreed to work for the gang as a translator and hostage negotiator in exchange for a share of the ransom. Ader confirmed he used an alias, “Adam,” during his negotiations with Lindhout’s mother. Ader also told the undercover officers that he only had contact with the hostages for the first three months of their captivity, and that he didn’t know Lindhout was tortured or raped. He was paid $10,000 U.S. for his work as a negotiator. “I was expecting more,” he told the men.
June 11, 2015: Ader is arrested and charged with kidnapping under extraterritorial provisions of the Criminal Code