Stewart Bell | Jan 29, 2013 2:10 PM ET | Last Updated: Jan 29, 2013 5:33 PM ET
Darren Calabrese/National PostGary Peters, former bodyguard of Saadi Gaddafi, speaks to reporters outside of the Immigration and Refugee Board in Toronto on Jan. 29, 2013, following a hearing where he was ordered to be deported.
TORONTO — Gary Peters was paid handsomely for bodyguarding Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi during the last throes of the Libyan dictatorship.
But on Tuesday it cost him.
At a hearing in Toronto, the Immigration and Refugee Board ordered his deportation, ruling the security services he provided to Mr. Gaddafi during the 2011 Libyan uprising made him complicit in the crimes of the regime.
During the time that Mr. Peters was paid tens of thousands of dollars to make sure no harm came to Mr. Gaddafi, the government carried out “extensive” attacks on civilians, IRB Member Alicia Seifert said in her decision.
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Those who opposed the Gaddafi regime were labeled “stray dogs” and subjected to arrests, torture and disappearances, while security forces fired on demonstrators with heavy weapons and helicopters, she said.
As Mr. Gaddafi’s personal bodyguard, she said Mr. Peters was effectively a “member of the government apparatus” and is therefore culpable for the atrocities the regime committed as it tried to suppress the Libyan revolt.
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Gary Peters worked for Saadi Gaddafi (above) during the last throes of the Libyan dictatorship.
Ms. Seifert also ruled Mr. Peters had committed a transnational crime when he helped Mr. Gaddafi escape to Niger as Tripoli was falling to rebel forces. At the time, Mr. Gaddafi was the subject of a United Nations travel ban.
The ruling means Mr. Peters could be deported in as little as two weeks unless he appeals the decision to the Federal Court. Outside the hearing room, he took issue with the IRB’s conclusions and said he intended to appeal.
“Everything I have is here and I still believe I’ve broken no laws at all.” He said he believed authorities had targeted him simply because of his longtime association with Mr. Gaddafi. “That’s a pretty lame excuse to kick somebody out of the country.”
Mr. Peters, 49, is an Australian who runs a private security company in Cambridge, Ont. He first met Mr. Gaddafi in 2000, when he was a member of the Australian army assigned to protect dignitaries at the Sydney Olympics. Later, he bodyguarded Mr. Gaddafi in Canada.
After the outbreak of violence in Libya two years ago, he was summoned to Tripoli by the dictator’s son. “Gary, I need you … I’m in trouble. S,” read an email he received from Mr. Gaddafi on Feb. 25, 2011, according to an RCMP affidavit.
During a half-dozen trips to Libya that year, Mr. Peters provided close protection to Mr. Gaddafi as he represented his father at public rallies and attended meetings with senior members of the regime, Kristen Smyth of the Canada Border Services Agency alleged at a Jan. 16 hearing.
At a rally in Benghazi, Mr. Gaddafi allegedly ordered security forces to open fire on anti-regime protesters but Mr. Peters denied that and said the decision was made by Abdullah Al-Senussi, then the Libyan military intelligence chief.
In July 2011, Mr. Peters made another controversial trip to Libya, this one funded by Montreal-based engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin, whose vice-president Riadh Ben Aissa had nurtured close ties with Mr. Gaddafi.
.Gary Peters pictured at the Tunasian/Libyan border
The leader of the fact-finding mission, Cynthia Vanier, was later arrested in Mexico for allegedly conspiring to smuggle Mr. Gaddafi and his family into the country on false documents. Mr. Ben Aissa and his controller Stéphane Roy left the company in February.
Mr. Ben Aissa was arrested in Switzerland last April and is being investigated for allegedly funneling $160-million in kickbacks to Mr. Gaddafi in exchange for steering contracts to SNC-Lavalin. He denies any wrongdoing.
Ms. Vanier denies the Mexican allegations. Through her Toronto lawyer, she denied sending or receiving emails concerning Mr. Gaddafi and his family that were reproduced in a sworn RCMP affidavit unsealed by a Montreal court Friday.
‘If they did anything illegal, I wasn’t a witness to that … There’s no grounds to charge me’
She said her only involvement in an “extraction” from Libya was for the purposes of removing members of her fact-finding team. “Ms. Vanier steadfastly maintains her innocence in this matter,” lawyer Peter Downard wrote.
In his testimony to the IRB, Mr. Peters said while he had worked for Mr. Gaddafi, he had not witnessed or played a role in any atrocities. He said he only helped the dictator’s son flee the country because his life was in danger.
But Ms. Seifert said although Mr. Peters was a “credible witness,” she was not convinced he was unaware of the abuses taking place and said she believed he had been “willfully blind” to Mr. Gaddafi’s role in them.
“A lot of the things she was talking about in there had nothing to do with me,” Mr. Peters responded after the hearing. “If they did anything illegal, I wasn’t a witness to that … There’s no grounds to charge me.”