International media said that a lawsuit in the United States against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman focused on an oil refinery on an island in the Caribbean Sea, unexpectedly shedding light on another issue, which is the fate of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
Mohammed bin Nayef, who was relieved of his duties as crown prince to be replaced by his cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017, has not been seen in public, since reports of his arrest appeared in March last year, according to Agence France-Presse.
Mohammed bin Nayef was seen as the most trusted Saudi ally of the CIA.
Mohammed bin Nayef: Saudi Arabia’s closest ally to the United States
He served as the kingdom’s interior minister as of 2012 before becoming crown prince three years later.
The lawsuit touched on his whereabouts, as stated in documents showing that the detained prince was a representative of an American law firm working for his rival, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the agency.
She added, “The lawsuit was filed by the son of Saudi businessman Nader Turki Al-Dosari, who is prohibited from leaving the kingdom with his family members, according to letters sent by his lawyer to US President Joe Biden and other US officials.”
Details of the lawsuit
The story began in June last year when Rakan Al-Dosari filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania on behalf of his father, and Rakan is an American citizen who filed a lawsuit against Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and other Saudi parties.
He claimed that they had failed to fulfill a contract that had been in place for a refinery project on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, according to the agency.
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However, the agency added, “But the case posed a dilemma: How can a summons be sent to a prince whose whereabouts are no longer known?”
And she continued: “The lawsuit was later amended to include Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who, according to the file, placed Muhammad bin Nayef under house arrest and confiscated his assets, which consequently prevented the implementation of his contractual obligations.”
When Al-Dosari said, according to the agency, that a summons could not be issued against Muhammad bin Nayef, the court ordered Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s lawyer to help locate him.
Last March, Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s lawyer offered to disclose Prince Mohammed bin Nayef’s whereabouts on a “confidential basis”.
He said in a court filing that he faces terrorism-related threats due to his previous role as the kingdom’s interior minister, without making any mention of his arrest.
But Al-Dosari’s lawyer insisted that Prince Mohammed bin Salman “is holding the former crown prince under house arrest,” saying that Prince Mohammed bin Nayef “is actually a prisoner in Saudi Arabia.”
Last month, the judge rejected the breach of contract case brought by Al-Dosari, leaving uncertainty surrounding the status and whereabouts of Prince Muhammad bin Nayef.
Al-Dosari’s lawyer, James Tallman, told AFP that he intends to appeal as well as face the travel ban, which he fears “will turn into a detention operation.”
The Saudi authorities have not publicly commented on the issue of Prince Muhammad bin Nayef’s detention.
Campaign against opponents
The current crown prince, the son of the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz, has carried out a wide campaign against his opponents, and succeeded in removing many of his competitors from the decision-making power.
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel said Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was a target because he had “much more support within the royal family”.
Prince Muhammad bin Nayef suddenly departed from the line of succession to rule in 2017, after the Saudi monarch appointed his son as crown prince.
Informed sources say that after the arrest of Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, the government pursued him on accusations of corruption and disloyalty.
In a report issued last December, a British parliamentary fact-finding committee said Prince Mohammed bin Nayef “has been unable to challenge his detention before an independent and impartial judge and cannot contact a lawyer to discuss his situation.”
But a few days before Al-Dosari’s lawsuit was dismissed, a number of lawyers from Squire Patton Boggs, a Washington public relations and law firm, registered to represent Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in the case, while simultaneously working for Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Squire Patton Boggs did not respond to an AFP request for comment when asked if it was Mohammed bin Nayef who asked it to represent him, and whether it had access to him or how it could represent him and the government at the same time.
A source with direct ties to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef’s legal team in Europe told AFP that “Squire Patton Boggs has never represented Prince Mohammed bin Nayef before.”
He explained that Prince Muhammad bin Nayef “has never met them (the company’s lawyer), and it is unclear how they will be able to contact him, as he has been deprived of contact with his lawyer for a long time or any kind of communication with the outside world.”
The royal court refuses to respond
The Saudi royal court did not respond to AFP’s request to comment on the role of the law firm in the case and the detention of Prince Muhammad bin Nayef.
Since 2016, Squire Patton Boggs has represented the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Saudi Royal Court, and has received nearly $2.7 million, according to US Department of Justice documents.
A recent US intelligence report said officials associated with the center may be involved in the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
The US company is also representing Prime Time Zone close to Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a separate US lawsuit filed by former intelligence official Saad Al-Jabri, according to US court documents.
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