Q&A: Saadi Gadhafi’s bodyguard on his boss’s legendary parties, fast-food habit and escape from Libya
What’s it like to be Saadi Gadhafi’s hired gun? Gary Peters, trusted protector of Libya’s playboy prince, lived to tell about it
You grew up in Australia. How did you become the bodyguard for Moammar
I was in the Australian army during the 2000 Sydney Olympics and was part of the protection detail for Saadi, who was a visiting dignitary. In 2002, I met a Canadian woman and moved to Cambridge to be with her. I got a job for a private security firm that, by coincidence, took on Saadi as a client. Eventually, Saadi hired me directly.
You obviously made an impression. Why did he like you so much?
I paid attention to the little things. His old security team didn’t even know what his favourite meal was—it’s a Wendy’s double cheeseburger with upsized fries and Coke. He also liked that I wouldn’t put up with any crap. He gave me a new nickname, Gun Powder, because he said if you put a spark on my ass it’ll go off.
What was your old nickname?
Shorty. I’m about five-foot-five-and-a-half.
What are your credentials?
I’m trained in aikido, krav maga and jiu jitsu, and I’ve worked for Megan Fox, Drew Barrymore, Anna Kournikova, Richie Sambora and Chris Martin.
Did you ever put your training to the test while protecting Saadi?
Sure. Once, in Libya, someone ambushed us with a machete while we were walking near a sports stadium. I put one bullet in his forehead and another in his throat.
Saadi owns a $1.6-million penthouse by the Rogers Centre. Have you seen it?
Seen it? I viewed it with him. It’s beautiful. He spent $200,000 on big-screen TVs and a paint job. He likes earth tones.
He used to spend a lot of time in Toronto. What about the city appealed to him?
The people. Canadians love to party, and they’re not American. He loved Sotto Sotto and the CN Tower restaurant. We used to rent out the penthouse suite at the Fallsview Casino, and he’d just stare across the falls at America. He used to charter a plane and fly around the Golden Horseshoe, too. Again, close to America but not in America.
Why was he called the Playboy Prince?
He loved a good time. Once we had a party at Panorama on top of the Manulife Centre and 50 Cent performed five songs. Saadi would go on the web and choose girls—blondes with long legs—to party and stay the night.
This habit wasn’t an issue for his wife?
No. It’s an arranged marriage.
In early 2011, as the uprising in Libya was becoming violent, you got an email from Saadi. What did it say?
“Gary, I’m in trouble. Help.” I got on a plane. By August, things were bad, and Saadi said it was time to flee. We decided on Niger.
How does one smuggle a prince across a border?
You drive really fast. We had a convoy of 19 cars. I was in the front seat and Saadi was in the back. His wife and kids were in a separate car and his money and jewels in another.
You parted ways near the border. How did you say goodbye?
It was emotional. Watery eyes, but no crying. He said “Peace be with you,” and they drove off. I stayed with another bodyguard and listened via radio. Once Saadi was in, we headed for Tunisia.
But that didn’t go as planned.
No. We got stopped at a roadblock, and five guys in green uniforms fired at us. I shot back with my pistol. I got hit in the shoulder, which really pissed me off, so I grabbed a rifle and let it rip.
Why were they shooting at you?
Dunno. Never found out. We tore through the desert and made it into Tunisia. We got the bullet out and put a tampon in the hole. Then I boarded a flight to Pearson. Midway through, I woke up, freezing cold, and there was blood everywhere. I made it to the toilet and called for help, then sat with the door open, and they brought napkins to sop up the blood. I can’t remember customs or picking up my bag. I do remember boarding the Park ’n Fly bus, and then everything went black. I ended up in the hospital.
What did your girlfriend think of all of this?
It hit her hard. She tries not to ask about what I do. The less she knows the better.
The government deemed you complicit in crimes against humanity and ordered you deported to Australia. You disagree with the ruling. Why?
I didn’t partake in any so-called war crimes. I was just doing my job, as I would for any client. But life goes on. Someone in L.A. is interested in a book deal and maybe a movie, so I plan to head there and hopefully make enough money to stay.