Accused Lindhout kidnapper admits in sting video receiving $10,000 of ransom
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OTTAWA — The man accused of making ransom demands during journalist Amanda Lindhout's kidnapping in Somalia told two undercover RCMP officers he received $10,000 for his role.
In Ontario Superior Court on Friday, the Crown played a secretly recorded video of Ali Omar Ader's June 2015 meeting with the officers at an Ottawa hotel — the culmination of an elaborate ruse to elicit a confession.
Ader believed he had travelled to Canada from his home in Mogadishu to sign a contract with Vancouver-based Catalina Publishing for his book "A Slow Genocide," a history of Somalia's troubled last 20 years.
As part of the contract, he was told to divulge anything about him that might expose the company to risk, so that it could be ready with a public-relations plan.
On the video, Ader acknowledges his paid efforts in the service of a shadowy group of armed kidnappers.
Ader and the undercover officers — one posing as Ader's business agent, the other as a publishing mogul — then take a break for a snack before returning to work on the contract.
Ader was expecting to take a tour of Parliament Hill the next day. Instead he was arrested by the RCMP.
Lindhout was a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., when she and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were grabbed by masked men near Mogadishu in August 2008 while working on a story. Both were freed in November 2009 for a ransom.
Ader, a 40-year-old Somalian national, has pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge of hostage-taking.
During pre-trial motions in April, details emerged of how the Mounties concocted a scheme to lure Ader to Canada — evidence the Crown began Friday to fully lay out for Justice Robert Smith.
The RCMP officer who would become Ader's trusted business agent told the court he first spoke with him by telephone in June 2010, seven months after Lindhout and Brennan were freed.
The undercover officer, who cannot be legally identified, told Ader he was a consultant hired by the traumatized Lindhout family to follow up on inquiries — including phone and Facebook messages in 2010 from Ader to Lindhout's mother, Lorinda Stewart.
Ader frequently spoke with Stewart by phone during the 15-month ordeal, and he was supposedly following up to help her daughter now that she was free.
The officer said Ader "wanted to make amends" and that he hoped to write a book about his homeland.
The Mountie thought it would be "a good strategy" to pursue the publishing angle as a means of building a relationship and obtaining a confession.
In May 2013, the officer arranged for Ader to meet him on the East African island of Mauritius to discuss the budding book project. He recalled greeting the slim Somalian man who was missing a front tooth in the outdoor seating area of a resort hotel.
"He was smiling and we hugged when we met," the Mountie told the court. "He was quite happy to see me."
The next morning at breakfast, Ader openly spoke of agreeing to help the kidnappers for a share of the ransom they would demand, the officer said. "He told me he became the group's brains, and those were his words."
The Mountie said Ader also acknowledged filming a video of Lindhout and Brennan that he then delivered to news outlet Al Jazeera.
However, under the laws of Mauritius, the RCMP could not surreptitiously record audio or video of encounters with Ader.
As work on the book progressed, the officer suggested that Ader come to Ottawa to meet the publisher and finalize the deal.
The video captures the moment the supposed Catalina Publishing executive arrives, and the Mountie acting as Ader's agent touts his literary prospect by proclaiming, "This is my star."
— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter