A 28-year-old Saudi man facing serious charges in connection to the sexual assault and confinement of a woman may have fled Canada with the help of his home country.
Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi, a 28-year-old man, who was residing in Sydney, Nova Scotia, was charged with a litany of crimes including sexual assault, forcible confinement, assault with a weapon uttering threats, and criminal harassment for two separate incidents that took place in between 2015 and 2017.
After his arrest, a bond of $ $37,500 was posted by the Saudi Arabian embassy for the one-time student at Cape Breton University. Last week, when Alzoabi didn’t appear in front of the court and that money was forfeited.
It’s assumed that Alzoabi was somehow able to jump on a plane to his homeland—a tough feat considering authorities had confiscated his passport. How did he do it? As one prominent immigration lawyer explains, the Saudi embassy from Canada may have played a prominent role.
“In order for this guy to leave Canada without a passport, it had to be facilitated by the Saudi government, or some government, and there’s no reason to believe that any other government would put themselves in this position,” Cohen, who has practised immigration law for decades in Nova Scotia, told the Canadian Press.
“It’s intriguing to me as to why the Saudi government would put up bail and then facilitate his departure from Canada before he had an opportunity to complete the criminal process. This is a foreign government interfering with the criminal process.”
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s embassy to Canada did not respond to VICE’s request for comment.
Details of the charges Alzoabi is facing cannot be reported due to a publication ban but they have been described by a crown prosecutor as “very serious.” If convicted Alzoabi could face 14 years in prison. Earlier in the week, the Chronicle Herald was actually able to talk to Alzoabi on audio-only Facetime call and he said “probably not” when asked if he was still in Canada—he went on to say that he believes the system is against him since he’s a minority.
“Everybody’s against me just because I’m a (racial expletive) and foreign student despite the fact that we boosted so much money to that island of Canada,’ Alzoabi told the paper.
This seemingly isn’t even the first time that Saudi Arabia has helped one of their citizens flee a country where they are facing charges. According to Oregon Live, in 2017 the Saudi consulate posted a $100,000 bond for Saudi national facing charges regarding a hit-and-run that killed a 15-year-old girl in Portland. Two weeks before he was supposed to go to trial he climbed into a black SUV, was driven to a private airport, cut off his ankle monitor, and disappeared. A prosecutor on that case told HuffPost that in their tenure for a long time an embassy putting up the bond for a citizen was unheard of but that’s starting to change.
"We're hearing this is happening more often than maybe we thought,” Shawn Overstreet, a deputy district attorney in Oregon's Multnomah County, told HuffPost. “We want to make sure this isn't something that continues to happen.”
Oregon Live reports that there have been upwards of five cases of Saudi nationals having their bonds posted by their embassy and then fleeing. These include two alleged rapists, one man with child pornography on his computer and two people involved in hit-and-runs.
According to court documents viewed by the Chronicle Herald, Alzoabi’s former counsel told authorities that his former client has left the country. Furthermore, now-deleted social media posts showed the man in his former country. Adding to the criminal charges Alzoabi owes tens of thousands of dollars worth of fines relating to driving infractions like speeding, driving with an invalid licence, and driving uninsured, unregistered and uninspected vehicles. The man apparently would buy shitty cars, trash them and when they got towed just by a new one.
Cohen told VICE that embassies utilizing their powers to allow a national to skip bail is, as one would expect, not the norm.
“In theory, countries usually respect (and are expected to respect) the sovereign exercise of a host country’s criminal justice system,” Cohen told VICE in an email. “They may complain about the charges. They might make diplomatic styled overtures related to charges. But, it is unusual to engineer the ‘escape’ of a citizen from a foreign country before legal processes are completed.”
Lenore Parsley, a spokesperson for the University of Cape Breton, confirmed to VICE that Alzoabi was a student there and had graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Parsley told VICE that “the incident did not happen on campus.”
Tensions between the Saudis and Canadians have been growing as of late. Just recently Rahaf Mohammed, an 18-year-old wom an fleeing her family in Saudi Arabia, was granted asylum in Canada. While the granting of asylum has been universally declared as a good move, some experts have said it may lead to increased tensions between the two countries.
One can assume that, behind the scenes, this isn’t going to help alleviate those tensions anytime soon.
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