In the last two years, three Saudi princes living in Europe have disappeared. All were critical of the Saudi government – and there is evidence that all were abducted and flown back to Saudi Arabia… where nothing further has been heard from them.
Early in the morning on 12 June 2003, a Saudi prince is being driven to a palace on the outskirts of Geneva.
His name is Sultan bin Turki bin Abdulaziz, and the palace belongs to his uncle, the late King Fahd. It’s the king’s favourite son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd, who has invited him to breakfast.
Abdulaziz asks Sultan to return to Saudi Arabia – where he says a conflict over Sultan’s criticisms of the Saudi leadership will be resolved.
Sultan refuses, at which point Abdulaziz excuses himself to make a phone call. The other man in the room, the Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Saleh al-Sheikh, leaves too and after a few moments masked men rush in. They beat Sultan and handcuff him, then a needle is plunged into his neck.
Unconscious, Sultan is rushed to Geneva airport – and carried on to a Medevac plane that is conveniently waiting on the tarmac.
Such, at least, is Sultan’s account of the events, as told to a Swiss court many years later.
Among Sultan’s staff, waiting at a Geneva hotel for him to return from his breakfast appointment, was his communications officer, Eddie Ferreira.
“Progressively, as the day went on the silence became deafening,” he remembers. “We couldn’t reach the security team. That was the first real alert. We tried to contact the prince; there was no response, no answer.”
Then, in the afternoon, two unexpected visitors arrived.
“The Saudi ambassador to Switzerland came in with the general manager of the hotel and quite simply just told everybody to vacate the penthouse and get out,” Ferreira says. “The prince was in Riyadh, our services were no longer required, and we could leave.”
What had Prince Sultan done that could have led his family to violently drug and kidnap him?
The previous year he had arrived in Europe for medical treatment, and started giving interviews critical of the Saudi government. He condemned the country’s record on human rights, complained about corruption among princes and officials, and called for a series of reforms.
Ever since 1932, when King Abdulaziz, known as Ibn Saud, founded Saudi Arabia, the country has been ruled as an absolute monarchy. It does not tolerate dissent.