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This is how undercover cops used a fake book deal to lure alleged Somali kidnapper to Canada

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In 2015, Ali Omar Ader’s future seemed promising. He was about to sign a publishing contract that he believed would make him a millionaire.

He had big plans to leave his war-torn home country of Somalia to seek asylum in Canada, and to lift his family out of poverty. But it took just a few days from the moment he landed in Canada for it all to come crashing down.

He’d find out the book deal and the new life that he’d been dreaming of was all a lie, part of a grand plan designed by Canada’s federal police (RCMP) to lure him to Ottawa and prosecute him for a crime he allegedly committed in Somalia: the kidnapping of Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout.

Today, Ader is facing life in prison if he’s convicted in a complicated international crime saga stretching from the outskirts of Mogadishu, to a luxury hotel on the island of Mauritius and finally on to Ottawa.

His supposed book agent, who he considered a “brother” and “best friend,” was actually an undercover cop, coordinating an operation to take down one of the men responsible for holding Lindhout hostage for 15 months. Ader was the operation’s sole target and the 40-year-old’s fate is now being considered by an Ontario superior court judge, following a 10-day month trial and five-year investigation.

The RCMP’s tactics to nail Ader were based on what his defence lawyer has characterized as a “Mr. Big” investigation, designed to elicit confessions from suspects in cold cases. Police entice a suspect to join a fictitious criminal organization by gaining their trust.
To get in the door with supposed underworld kingpins, police create a scenario where the suspect is obliged to confess to serious crimes. By building a “Mr. Big” persona around its undercover agent, who Ader believed was a publisher, police were able to lure him to Canada, where he could be prosecuted for crimes in Somalia.

This is how the international sting went down, according to trial testimony, transcripts of intercepted phone calls, and court documents.
Amanda Lindhout, a rookie freelance reporter from Red Deer, Alta, was kidnapped, along with Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan, near the Somali capital Mogadishu in August 2008. She was working for Iran’s Press TV and had been in Somalia for less than five days when she was taken.

As her mother desperately tried to come up with $600,000 demanded by the kidnappers, Lindhout was subjected to 460 days of torture, including beatings, starvation, and gang rape. The RCMP says Ader was the kidnappers’ head negotiator, translating during phone calls between the kidnappers and Lindhout’s mother and playing a leadership role in coordinating the crime.

Lindhout’s book about the ordeal has been a bestseller since it was published in 2013 and will be turned into a movie. Meanwhile, for his involvement, Ader allegedly received $10,000 from the ransom paid to the kidnappers by Lindhout’s family to secure her release. To him, that wasn’t enough.

About two months after Lindhout returned home to Canada in 2010, her mother Lorinda Stewart received an unexpected voicemail. It was Ader, seeking to get in touch with her daughter. He and Stewart had spoken extensively during Lindhout’s captivity.

But it wasn’t Lorinda Stewart who returned his call six months later, but a man claiming to be a representative of the family. In court documents, the undercover RCMP officer is called AK, although that isn’t his real name. AK spent five years befriending Ader, gathering information as part of an operation known as Project Slype. Those years of investigative work came to a head in an Ottawa courtroom in October during an emotional legal battle. The judge’s ruling isn’t expected until 2018.

In his closing arguments, prosecutor Croft Michaelson accused Ader of spinning a “tissue of lies” after he testified in court that he was himself being held hostage by Lindhout’s kidnappers, arguing that it made no sense to confess to something he didn’t do on two separate occasions to undercover officers.

“There was nothing to be gained by exaggerating his involvement in the hostage-taking,” said Michaelson.

A couple of weeks ago in an Ottawa courtroom, Ader sat just metres away from Lindhout as she testified against him. To her, he was known as “Adam” and “the commander.” Ader said he’d received instructions from Allah to demand a ransom for Lindhout and Brennan, Lindhout said in court, according to The Canadian Press. Ader also told Lindhout he wanted to marry her.

“Basically they saw me as a piece of property that they owned,” said Lindhout, who said she’d been beaten and sexually assaulted during her time in captivity, and kept in grimy conditions, including one place where ‘rats were crawling all over [her body].” Ader said he had no idea that Lindhout had been raped or beaten, and that he only had contact with the hostages for the first three months of their captivity.

In his first call with AK in 2010, Ader said he had letters written by Lindhout that he wanted to sell back to her, and subsequently sent over samples. Ader wrote an email to AK two months later bragging that “one day he expected to be a millionaire because he was writing a book” about the history of Somalia called ‘A Slow Genocide,’ according to court documents. AK sensed an opportunity. He claimed he had contacts in the publishing industry and offered to make some calls.

And so it began. For months, AK feigned interest in Lindhout’s letters, as well as the book, before telling Ader that the family didn’t have much money. The book became the focus of their conversations. Ader gradually become less interested in selling the letters, and eventually emailed over some scanned copies of what Lindhout wrote when in captivity, in one of the dozen or so different places she was held.

In December 2010, AK told Ader that ‘“there was a lot of money to be made publishing a book,” court documents said. Two days later, Ader revealed his real name, and sent over copies of his passport and university degree — the alleged kidnapper wanted to go to grad school to study international relations. AK helped him research masters programs at Canadian universities, and the two began discussing the possibility of Ader seeking asylum in Canada.

As for the book, he told Ader, the publisher had given him positive feedback. The following year, AK pitched himself to Ader as his book agent, boasting about the successes of Intercon Communications, his made up consulting firm, and offered him a discount on services.

Over the following months, Ader worked on his book, sending AK copies of outlines and chapters as the writing progressed. At AK’s suggestion, they met for the first time in May 2013 at a lavish Hilton on the island of Mauritius, so he could officially sign him as a client. Ader had no idea it was the RCMP who had arranged his flight from Somalia, that they’d made arrangements with local police to make sure he was allowed into Mauritius, or that it was one of their officers he was speaking with when he started freely talking about his involvement in Lindhout’s kidnapping.

In court this spring, AK recalled meeting Ader at the hotel.

“He was smiling and we hugged when we met,” AK told the court. “He was quite happy to see me.”

Ader told Khan he’d been approached to work as a translator and negotiator a few hours after Lindhout was kidnapped.

“He told me he became the group’s brains, and those were his words,” AK said. At the same meeting, during which he signed a contract for AK to act as his worldwide book agent, Ader admitted to sending a proof of life video of Lindhout to Al Jazeera. Because it’s the against the law in Mauritius, the RCMP couldn’t record the conversation.

Two years passed following the hotel meeting. In that time, AK told Ader he’d suffered a heart attack, and that everything would have to be put on hold while he got better—in reality, however, the RCMP needed to figure out the logistics of bringing Ader into the country.

In June of 2015, AK invited Ader to come to Canada and meet with a publisher who he said was interested in his book — he’d arrange his travels, along with a member of his fake staff. As Ader got ready for the trip, he started following Canadian tourism accounts on Twitter. When he landed a few days later, AK’s assistant — another undercover RCMP officer, escorted the alleged kidnapper turned aspiring author to his hotel room.

After an evening of preparation, Ader and AK got ready to meet with an another undercover cop, who took on the role of a Vancouver publisher named “Chris,” who ran fake firm called Catalina Publishing.

“Are you ready to impress the publisher?” AK asked Ali just before Chris entered the hotel boardroom, in a video of the meeting played in court. “This is a big deal. It has taken five years to get to this point.”

“This is my star, Ali,” AK told the fake publishing executive when he walked in, introducing him to a smiling Ader, sporting a suit.

Over the next two hours, Chris walked Ader through the details of the publishing agreement that was worth $234,000, and covered the possibility of future books and a documentary about the kidnapping.

Crucially, the contract also included a full disclosure clause, requiring Ader to divulge anything that could generate negative publicity or legal liability for him or the publisher.

“This is a deal worth over a million dollars in total, ok?” AK told Ader, explaining that he had to be able to protect his company. “So uh… at this point if you’d like to disclose to Chris your total involvement in that, then at least he will be armed and ready to protect you or protect his company.”

“They needed to know about the ‘Amanda incident,’ AK told Ader.

Yes, Ader responded, before launching into an explanation of how he was at tea in Somalia when he got a phone call from a man with an offer. A few minutes later that man arrived and told him someone had captured a foreigner and needed a translator. For a share of the ransom, Ader agreed. He then disclosed a number of “holdback details” — that he’d used the alias “Adam,” during the negotiations and that he only had contact with the hostages for the first three months they were held. He had no idea Lindhout was tortured or raped, he said. The $10,000 he received for his work as a negotiator wasn’t enough and “he was expecting more,” Ader told the RCMP agents posing as publishers.

Ader signed the contract and left the room. In the hallway, he was met by an RCMP officer, who arrested him. He was charged with kidnapping under extraterritorial provisions of the Criminal Code.

“He was one of the main negotiators, ” Assistant Commissioner James Malizia told reporters in June 2015, after Ader’s arrest. “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.”

As the lone defence witness in his case, Ader now claims he didn’t act voluntarily but was pressured at gunpoint to work as a translator and then held hostage himself. Ader told the court he was grabbed off the street while on break from work and held for several months, receiving instructions on what to say during calls with Stewart. He said he was beaten and attempted to escape, but surrendered after hostage takers threatened his family. He claimed he’d exaggerated the story to make his book sound more salacious and that he wasn’t paid by the kidnappers, forcing his own attorney to concede that parts of Ader’s story contradicted themselves.

Ader’s entire defence has been dismissed by the Crown as flagrant lies. And Ader admitted under cross examination that he wasn’t much of a prisoner — he was able to leave the apartment to eat at restaurants, work as a travel agent, and bring his family to live with him.

“They always listen to me … sometimes I yell at them, and tell them to give me time to negotiate and reach an agreement,” Ader said during a call played in court with a Somali man who helped the Lindhout family communicate with the kidnappers. “Earlier tonight I called and screamed at them. They have told me I have no right to scream when I don’t have ransom money or an arrangement.”

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N.S. man facing deportation to Somalia to be released, lawyer says

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TIMES COLONIST — HALIFAX — The lawyer for a young man who has spent most of his life in Canada but is now facing deportation to Somalia says his client will soon be released from detention.

Benjamin Perryman says the Immigration and Refugee Board has ordered Abdoul Abdi to be released from custody.

Abdi was six years old when he arrived in Nova Scotia as a refugee from the war-torn, African country.

He went to live with his aunt, who didn’t speak English, and was soon apprehended by the Nova Scotia government and put into foster care.

Between the ages of eight and 19, Abdi was moved 31 times, separated from his sister and was never granted citizenship.

His aunt’s efforts to regain custody were rejected, and attempts to file a citizenship application for the children was blocked.

Abdi served five years in prison for multiple charges, including aggravated assault.

Perryman said Abdi was given grossly inadequate care by the province as a foster child. He has said deporting him to Somalia — a country to which he has no ties and where he would be unable to care for his Canadian-born daughter — would be unfair.

Abdi’s case has become a rallying point for advocates who say it was wrong for the province to fail to apply for citizenship on his behalf.

Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia’s premier, said last week that he has ordered the province’s Community Services Department to complete a review of any cases that would require supports similar to those needed by Abdi.

The Canada Border Services Agency detained Abdi when he was released from prison earlier this month.

Although a date is not finalized, Abdi, 24, will soon be released to a halfway house in the greater Toronto area.

“He will likely be transferred to a halfway house tomorrow. Canada continues to pursue his deportation,” Perryman said in a tweet Monday.

(Global News, The Canadian Press)

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Canada failed Abdoul Abdi but it’s not too late to do the right thing

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The Somali refugees life is a tragic story that highlights the gaps in Canadian institutions and systems that disproportionately and negatively impact Black Canadians.

“If it was your son, would you do anything to stop this?”

This was the question posed directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by Fatouma, the sister of Abdoul Abdi, at a town hall event in Halifax this week.

Abdi’s is a tragic story that highlights the gaps in Canadian institutions and systems that disproportionately and negatively impact Black Canadians.

Abdi came to Canada as a child refugee from Somalia in 2000 with his sister and aunts. His mother died in a refugee camp while awaiting the three-year process that eventually landed his family here.

Under uncertain circumstances, of which his family continues to seek clarification due to language barriers at the time, the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services removed a 7-year-old Abdi and his sister from the care of their aunt. Over the next decade the siblings were separated and Abdi was shuffled between 31 homes.

Abdi’s aunt never stopped fighting for guardianship, and while she obtained her own citizenship she was denied the opportunity to apply for citizenship on behalf of her niece and nephew. While under child protection, Abdi was provided insufficient support to navigate the process of becoming a Canadian citizen on his own.

He was failed by the very system that was meant to protect him.

For child welfare advocates, Abdi’s story and path from care to the criminal justice system is a familiar one. For the crimes he committed in his youth, which included aggravated assault, time has justly been served. At the moment of his release, as he prepared to reunite with his family and reintegrate into society, Abdi was detained once more.

Without his citizenship in place, Abdi was left vulnerable to the immigration process that could possibly lead to deportation.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder to speak truth to power, advocates across Canada have spoken out with a resounding roar on Abdi’s behalf, garnering attention and seeking immediate remedy for his case.

In response to Fatouma’s question, Trudeau emphasized compassion and empathy while outlining the ways in which he recognized Canadian systems failed Abdi.

“It opened our eyes to something that many of us knew was ongoing in many communities but we continue to need to address,” he said.

While his response was well informed, I would have liked to hear the prime minister name systemic anti-Black racism as a key factor to be addressed.

We need to directly acknowledge the cracks in our government systems through which Black Canadians are falling through at disproportionately high rates so that we can proactively tackle them.

South of our border, the president of the United States has continued his divisive political agenda anchored in anti-Black racism. After hearing of his comments this week I wonder how his defenders continue to uphold him as a leader.

Characterizing Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations as “s—hole countries,” in an immigration meeting Trump reportedly asked, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

As thousands of Haitian families look to Canada in the wake of the Trump administration’s decision to rescind deportation protections from nearly 60,000 Haitian refugees following the devastation of the 2010 earthquake, I hope Canada will show the compassion and empathy our prime minister talked about in his town hall this week and take them in.

Canada should be aiming for nothing less than global leadership in the steps we take to address anti-Black racism. To do this successfully we will need active engagement from Canadian political leaders.

They should be proactively partnering with Black communities to identify priorities, set goals, communicate them publicly, and track progress toward success.

It’s difficult to engage in dialogue about policy while Abdi and his family live in crisis, facing this terrifying uncertainty. I hope this nightmare is over for them very soon.

But how is it fair that his story be used to advance public policy before his own livelihood is restored?

It is time for him to be reunited with his family so they may begin the long journey of healing from these painful experiences. That is what’s fair.

And I hope once that happens we can dive deeply into rectifying the systems that failed him, and map our way forward.

Tiffany Gooch is a political strategist at public affairs firms Enterprise and Ensight, secretary of the Ontario Liberal Party Executive Council, and an advocate for increased cultural and gender diversity in Canadian politics.

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Memorable story: Respect, truth key in reporting young boy’s drowning death

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As 2017 came to a close, StarPhoenix staff reflected on the stories that struck a personal chord with them this year. For Morgan Modjeski, it was getting at the truth in the chaotic hours after the tragic death of a child.

The goal of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was to get it right.

That was what I told Hussein Elmmi a day after his five-year-old son, Ahmedsadiq Elmmi, drowned in a pond near Dundonald School. When I sat down with Hussein, the boy’s funeral had been held just a few hours earlier at the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan Mosque on Copland Crescent.

Like any father in his situation would be, Hussein was crushed. Listening to the tape of our interview three months later, I heard his quiet voice again, speaking about his family’s unfathomable loss.

Support was pouring in for them. People all over Saskatoon were heartbroken over the accident, but no one more than Hussein and his loved ones. In our interview, he said there was no adjective to describe how the death affected his family.

Their lives would never be the same, and his frustration and anger were magnified by the misinformation circulating about his boy. The hours after a tragedy are chaotic. Some reports said Ahmedsadiq was a newcomer to Canada, but as The StarPhoenix gathered more information, it became clear that was not the case.

Hussein had questions about where the information was coming from. He felt people were stereotyping his son. While the family was new to Saskatoon, his wife had been living in Prince Albert since 2000 and Ahmedsadiq was a Canadian citizen, born in Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital.

Gathering information about a person who has died is always a challenge, and never enjoyable. It’s even more difficult when the person is a child.

Various people told reporters the boy’s family was a member of three different communities in Saskatoon: the Filipino community, the Pakistani community and the Somali community.

We started to reach out to community associations on Facebook in an attempt to get more information. That’s when a representative from the Pakistani community told me the child was a member of the Somali community and his funeral was taking place as we messaged back and forth.

After speaking with my editors, we decided I should stop by the funeral to seek more information from people who knew the family directly, or to see if it was possible to speak with the boy’s parents.

It was a delicate situation, to say the least. In looking for answers, we had to be respectful.

By the time I arrived, the funeral had ended and the small casket carrying Ahmedsadiq’s body was being loaded into the back of a hearse. There was no opportunity to speak with anyone extensively, as family had already moved on to the burial site. However, a trusted contact agreed to try to get a message to the family that the paper was hoping to speak with them.

An hour or so later, the contact called and after some brief conversations, we were told the boy’s father was willing to speak with me directly. We were going to hear more about the boy from the man who raised him.

Meanwhile, people across the city were also looking for answers. Information about the death — accurate or not — was spreading. More than 480 students attend the school, and few people knew the identity of the child who had drowned. Was it a relative, the child of a friend or an acquaintance?

When such questions are swirling around, journalists are under pressure to find the truth. Without help from the people directly involved, carrying out that task borders on impossible.

Frustrated by the misinformation spreading on the social media rumour mill, Hussein and his family wanted people to know the facts about Ahmedsadiq. At a time of unimaginable stress, they chose to trust The StarPhoenix, and nothing mattered more to us than living up to that responsibility.

Ahmedsadiq’s death is still under investigation by the Saskatoon Public School Division and Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth.

mmodjeski@postmedia.com

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