They’re not just in Oregon.
University students from Saudi Arabia have vanished while facing criminal charges here and in at least seven other states as well as Canada — evidence that a growing number of defendants from the wealthy Persian Gulf kingdom have fled justice in the United States.
There are likely more to be discovered.
The Oregonian/OregonLive uncovered five examples in Oregon and began searching other states in late January. We’ve found similar cases in Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
We also found two cases in Nova Scotia: Saudi students in two separate incidents skipped bail and disappeared after being accused of sexual assault.
[Find complete coverage of our ongoing investigative series here]
In Oregon, each case involved Saudi nationals who vanished before they faced trial or completed their jail sentence: two accused rapists, a pair of suspected hit-and-run drivers and one man accused of having a trove of child pornography on his computer.
All were young men studying at a public college or university in Oregon with assistance from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the time of their arrest.
In at least four of those cases, the Saudi government paid the defendant’s bail and legal fees. Three surrendered their passports. Some have been tracked back to Saudi Arabia.
The revelations have generated national attention and prompted Oregon U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden to seek answers on Capitol Hill.
Our investigation into new cases around the country is a work in progress. Court records, police reports, news stories, tips and interviews will form the basis of our reporting. We will be publishing what we find in real time, so please check back for regular updates.
Here’s what we know so far. Got a tip? Send it.
Mohammed Zuraibi Al-Zoabi
Nova Scotia, Canada
Disappeared: December 2018
Mohammed Zuraibi Al-Zoabi was a student at Cape Breton University when he faced numerous charges of sexual assault, assault and forcible confinement of a woman, with the alleged incidents occurring between 2015 and 2017, according to The Chronicle Herald newspaper in Halifax. According to the Star Halifax newspaper, Al-Zoabi last year received $37,500 of his bail from the Saudi Embassy in Ottowa. In early December, a Canadian sheriff tried to find Al-Zoabi, then 28, the newspaper reported, but he was nowhere to be found. His attorney, David Ianetti, told authorities the Saudi man had “fled the country some time ago,” according to court documents. Police had previously seized his passport.
Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah
Multnomah County, Oregon
Disappeared: June 2017
Portland police arrested Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, then 20, in the fatal hit-and-run of Fallon Smart, 15, in August 2016. He faced charges of first-degree manslaughter and felony-hit-and run. After his arrest, the Saudi Consulate in Los Angeles retained private defense attorneys Ginger Mooney and David McDonald to work on Noorah’s case and paid his bail, set at $1 million, according to court records and prosecutors. He turned over his passport to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a condition of his release. He was placed under house arrest, required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet on his ankle and allowed to take classes at Portland Community College. Two weeks before his June 2017 trial, Noorah disappeared. Officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Marshals Service now believe he left his Southeast Portland neighborhood in a black SUV, cut his ankle monitor and later used an illicit passport and private plane — likely provided by the Saudi government — to flee the country. In July 2018, more than 13 months after he first disappeared, the Saudis contacted Homeland Security to inform the agency that Noorah was back home.
CONTINUE @ OREGON LIVE