FBI: Saudi Gov’t Helps Its Citizens Escape Prosecution in US
By Staff, The Oregonian/OregonLive
The FBI believes the Saudi Arabian government “almost certainly” helps its citizens flee the country after they are accused of serious crimes, “undermining the US judicial process,” according to a newly declassified document obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive.
The surreptitious action is done, in part, to spare the wealthy Persian Gulf kingdom embarrassment, the FBI said. Intelligence officials believe the flights from justice will continue without intervention by the American authorities.
Saudi officials “are unlikely to alter this practice in the near term unless the US Government directly addresses this issue with [Saudi Arabia] and ties US cooperation on [Saudi] priorities to ceasing this activity," according to the FBI.
The details are contained in an intelligence bulletin dated Aug. 29. The FBI released the document Friday as part of a recent law pushed by US Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and signed by President Donald Trump last month that requires the FBI to publicly disclose what it knows about the Saudi government’s suspected role in helping its citizens avoid prosecution in the US.
The eight-page bulletin is heavily redacted and does not specify what the Saudi officials may have done, nor does it contain information about the size and scope of the practice.
But the document provides the first public acknowledgement by federal officials about the role Saudi operatives have likely played in the disappearance of numerous citizens who have gotten into legal trouble while in the US.
“I am shocked and appalled at what this memo describes,” said Wyden, whose office provided a copy of the document to The Oregonian/OregonLive. “The Trump administration is out of excuses for sitting on its hands while the Saudi government helps these fugitives evade justice.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The revelation comes a year after an investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive found multiple cases where Saudi students studying throughout the US vanished while facing different felony charges, with the suspected assistance of their government. The cases occurred under several US administrations.
The news organization revealed criminal cases involving at least seven Saudi nationals who disappeared from Oregon before they faced trial or completed their jail sentences on various charges, including those who had surrendered their passports to authorities.
One of the suspects, 21-year-old Portland Community College student Abulrahman Sameer Noorah, vanished weeks before his 2017 trial in the hit-and-run death of 15-year-old Fallon Smart and later resurfaced in Saudi Arabia.
The Oregonian/OregonLive’s investigation later found similar cases in at least seven other states — Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin — and Canada, bringing the total number of known Saudi suspects who have escaped to 25.
Some of the cases date back 30 years, suggesting the Saudi government had spent decades subverting the US criminal justice system and leaving untold numbers of victims without any recourse.