A British engineer murdered in the French Alps may have had access to part of a multi-million pound fortune once belonging to Saddam Hussein, it has been claimed.
By Peter Allen, Paris
10:01PM BST 27 Oct 2012
The possibility was raised by German secret agents working on the international enquiry into the quadruple killing close to Lake Annecy on September 5.
Iraqi-born Saad Al-Hilli, 50, died in a blaze of gunfire alongside his wife Iqbal, 47, his mother-in-law Suhaila Al-Allaf, 74, and Sylvain Mollier, 45, a French cyclist.
Since the massacre in an isolated wooden layby on September 5th, police and prosecutors have been at a loss to establish a motive for the bloodshed.
But now intelligence officials based in Berlin have uncovered evidence that Mr Al-Hilli may have had access to cash which belonged to the former Iraqi dictator.
This raises the possibility that sinister forces specifically targeted Mr Al-Hilli as a means of gaining access to part of the enormous wealth that Saddam hid around the world, and especially in Switzerland.
Specialist police were last week questioning Geneva-based bankers about the Al-Hilli’s assets, while financial records in countries including the USA have also been requested.
It has already been established that Mr Al-Hilli was in dispute with his older brother, 53-year-old Zaid Al-Hilli, over the will of their father, Kadhim, who died around a year ago in Spain.
Until now it was thought that the money under dispute came from Kadhim’s property dealing and other business interests.
But the German agents have now told their French anti-terrorist counterparts that cash deposited in an Al-Hilli account in Geneva originally came from Saddam.
Kadhim, a former factory owner, left Baghdad in the late 1970s with his wife, Fasiha, and two boys, after allegedly falling foul of Saddam’s Ba’ath Party.
The family settled in Pimlico, central London, with any accounts containing money given to Kadhim by Saddam allegedly frozen after Kadhim was struck off a “list of beneficiaries”, according to the new German intelligence.
But the clear implication is that Kadhim may not have fallen out with Saddam at all, and was in fact being used to get money out of Iraq on behalf of the dictator, who was always making plans in case he was overthrown.
Saddam was executed in December 2006, shortly after it was revealed that he withdraw around £620 million from the Iraqi central bank in 2003 and began hiding it around the world.
The assets would have been added to millions already deposited in accounts in other countries – mainly through Iraqis who had moved abroad.
Saddam is known to have concentrated particularly large amounts in Switzerland and France, where he had at least two homes and moored a £17million yacht.
A report in this weekend’s Le Monde reads: “The German secret service has passed on to the gendarmerie’s anti-terrorist branch information about the links between the al-Hilli family and Saddam Hussein’s fortune.”
These assets include around £820,000 in the Al-Hilli’s Geneva account – and there could be others.
The breakthrough is sourced to a senior French detective working on the killings in eastern France, who said the cosmopolitan Kadhim Al-Hilli would have been an obvious candidate to take money out of Iraq.
If Saad Al-Hilli was party to this secret information – and indeed the location of the hidden millions – then he would have been an obvious target for an attack.
“The conflict between the al-Hilli brothers, highlighted during the enquiry, was therefore centered on this inheritance and not solely on their father’s,” read the report in Le Monde.
“Swiss lawyers discovered that Saad al-Hilli had a bank account containing a million euros, without making the link between this money and Iraq, where his family originally come from,” it adds.
Eric Maillaud, the Annecy prosecutor who is leading the enquiry into the quadruple killer, said he had ‘not yet been informed’ about the intelligence from Germany.
However he confirmed that Mr Al-Hilli’s financial affairs and his background in Iraq were at the top of subjects being investigated as he tried to uncover a motive for the murders.
Emmanuel Ludot, a French lawyer who defended Sadaam Hussein following his capture, admitted that the deposed Iraqi regime still had funds in Swiss accounts, although he claimed the notion of a “hidden fortune” was fantasy.
Zaid Al-Hilli has been questioned by police, but is solely being treated as a witness after denying any involvement in the slaughter of his family members to officers in Britain.
The attack also saw Mr Al-Hilli’s seven-year-old daughter, Zainab, badly injured, while her four-year-old sister Zeena, was left deeply traumatised.