Saudi Arabia has actively helped its citizens who are charged with crimes escape from the US, a declassified FBI bulletin revealed. US Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., forced the law enforcement agency to reveal details about its investigation into the practice whereby the Middle Eastern kingdom bails out its citizens and flies them home to avoid having them stand trial. 

The FBI Weighs In

Wyden is a member of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, therefore had access to the raw, classified information. Yet as it was not made public months ago, he successfully pushed to have its public release mandated through law by including a provision in an appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by US President Donald Trump, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The public release is heavily redacted, but leaves enough to ascertain the FBI’s position on the subject and confirmation that Saudi Arabia has actively assisted its citizens in avoiding justice for crimes in the US.

“The FBI based this assessment on the key assumption [that] Kingdom of Saudi Arabia officials perceive the embarrassment of Saudi citizens enduring the US judicial process is greater than the embarrassment of the United States learning the KSA surreptitiously removes citizens with legal problems from the United States,” the FBI intelligence bulletin stated.

Oregon is a Hotbed, but Similar Cases Happened in Other States

In over a dozen cases across eight states, Saudi nationals seemingly “vanished” before they were due to stand trial, The Oregonian reported. The news outlet’s research into the matter began in earnest with the high profile case of Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, a Saudi student living in Oregon, was charged with manslaughter for killing a pedestrian.

Noorah was driving three times the posted speed limit when he swerved and struck the 15-year-old girl. Although he was compelled to turn over his passport and wear a GPS tracker under house arrest, he fled the country with aid from the Saudi Consulate, which also paid his $100,000 bail.

Saudi Arabia denied the allegation that it had a role in Noorah’s disappearance, but since he turned up in his home country, suspicions only grew.

In Oregon, cases of alleged rape, child pornography, sexual assault, and a loaded firearm purchased illegally all seemingly merited Saudi intervention.

The escapes, taken in tandem with the murder of Washington Post Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, led Wyden and fellow senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., to take the Arab nation to task in Washington. 

“When anyone within our nation commits a crime, they need to be held accountable – especially when that crime results in the death of an innocent teenager,” said Merkley. “Saudi Arabia’s blatant disrespect for international norms cannot be allowed to stand. We need a wholesale rethinking of our relationship with Saudi Arabia – and we should all be able to agree that any nation that helps their citizens escape from the law needs to be held fully accountable. After the shocking murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, this is yet another sign of Saudi Arabia’s flaunting of diplomatic norms.”

Legislative Solution

Together, the duo authored three bills directed at solving the problem. The first legislation, the Saudi Fugitive Declassification Act of 2019, was passed by the Senate and introduced in the House. If approved by representatives, it will await Trump’s signature. The law would force the FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify details pertaining to cases related to Saudi nationals who leave America while their criminal trials are pending.

The second bill, The ESCAPE (Examining Saudi Counselor Activities Promoting Extraction) of Saudi Nationals Act would allow Washington to expel diplomats who assist Saudi nationals escaping the country. 

Finally, a third bill titled the Preserving American Justice Act would introduce mandating reporting on the subject by the Department of Justice and institute a tax penalty on nations accused of engaging in the practice.

The latter two bills were introduced in the Senate, but not the House, yet. Without laws against the behavior, the FBI and senators are convinced it will continue. The odds of them passing both houses of Congress and receiving Trump’s signature are also slim, considering the American president places a high value on the US-Saudi relationship. 

It's a tough moment
LET'S STAY TOGETHER