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Not just Oregon: Saudi students in at least 8 states, Canada vanish while facing criminal charges

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.