Former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN), unseated as inheritor to the throne by his cousin Prince Mohammed in 2017, has not been seen in public since his detention in March final yr.
MBN, lengthy seen because the CIA’s most trusted Saudi ally, served as the dominion’s inside minister from 2012 earlier than changing into crown prince three years later.
The lawsuit pointed to authorities efforts to maintain a decent lid on his whereabouts, with paperwork displaying the detained royal was represented by a US legislation agency that works for his rival.
The man behind the lawsuit, Saudi businessman Nader Turki Aldossari, is barred from leaving the dominion alongside together with his members of the family, in line with letters from his lawyer to President Joe Biden and different US officers.
The story started in June final yr, when Aldossari filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania on behalf of his son Rakan, an American citizen, towards MBN and different Saudi entities.
He alleged that they had didn’t honour a decades-old contract associated to a refinery mission on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.
But the case posed a peculiar conundrum: serve a summons to a prince whose whereabouts had been unknown?
The go well with was amended to incorporate Prince Mohammed, stating that he had positioned MBN underneath home arrest and seized his belongings, thus stopping him from assembly his contractual obligations.
And when Aldossari mentioned a summons couldn’t be served towards MBN, the courtroom ordered Prince Mohammed’s attorneys to assist confirm his location.
In March, Prince Mohammed’s counsel provided to offer MBN’s handle on a “confidential foundation”, saying in a courtroom submitting that he confronted terrorism-related threats because of his earlier position as the dominion’s inside minister.
There was no point out of him being detained.
Aldossari’s counsel insisted that Prince Mohammed was “holding the previous crown prince underneath home arrest”.
“Nayef is successfully a prisoner of… Saudi Arabia,” he mentioned in a submitting.
But final month, the decide threw out Aldossari’s breach-of-contract case, leaving the questions of MBN’s standing and whereabouts unresolved.
Aldossari’s lawyer James Tallman advised AFP he plans to enchantment — in addition to battle his personal purchasers’ journey ban, which he fears “might escalate to detention”.
Saudi authorities haven’t publicly commented on the detention of MBN, which laid naked rivalries contained in the royal household.
Prince Mohammed has detained or sidelined a number of royal rivals in his rise to develop into the dominion’s de facto ruler.
But a specific goal has been MBN, who enjoys “rather more assist inside the royal household”, mentioned Bruce Riedel, a former long-serving American CIA officer.
MBN was abruptly faraway from the royal line of succession in 2017 after King Salman appointed Prince Mohammed, his son, as crown prince.
Since MBN’s detention, the federal government has been pursuing corruption and disloyalty prices towards him, sources on either side say.
In a report final December, a British parliamentary fact-finding panel mentioned MBN had “not been in a position to contest his detention earlier than an unbiased and neutral decide (and) has no entry to a lawyer to debate his scenario”.
But simply days earlier than the Aldossari lawsuit was dismissed, a number of attorneys from Squire Patton Boggs, a Washington lobbying and legislation agency, registered to characterize MBN within the case — whereas additionally working for his rival.
Squire Patton Boggs didn’t reply to AFP when requested if that they had been immediately recruited by MBN, whether or not they had entry to him in detention or how they might concurrently characterize him and the federal government.
Squire Patton Boggs “have by no means represented MBN earlier than,” a supply in direct contact with MBN’s Europe-based authorized workforce advised AFP.
“MBN has by no means met them, and it’s unclear how they might get entry to him… when he has been denied entry to his long-standing attorneys, due course of, or any sort of communication with the surface world.”
The Saudi royal courtroom didn’t reply to AFP’s request for remark on the legislation agency’s involvement within the case and on MBN’s detention.
Since 2016, Squire Patton Boggs has represented the Center for Studies and Media Affairs (CSMARC) on the Saudi royal courtroom, receiving a complete of round $2.7 million for the work, in line with US justice division filings.
A latest US intelligence report mentioned officers related to CSMARC had been concerned in Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 homicide in Turkey.
Squire Patton Boggs additionally represents Prince Mohammed’s co-defendants in a separate US lawsuit introduced by former intelligence czar Saad Aljabri, a long-time advisor to MBN, in line with US courtroom filings.
A US-based supply near Aljabri mentioned it was “incomprehensible to see attorneys showing on behalf of MBN in a single lawsuit whereas representing Prince Mohammed’s co-defendants in one other lawsuit.”