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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saad Al-Hilli Shooting: Saddam Hussein gave £840,000 fortune to family of murdered in Alps massacre

Saddam Hussain gave £840,000 to the family of the British engineer who was murdered with his wife in the Alps, it was claimed last night.

The former Iraqi dictator is said to have deposited the sum in a Swiss bank account in the name of Saad Al-Hilli’s father.

The claim, which apparently originated with German intelligence, adds a sensational twist to the baffling case.

Mr Al-Hilli, 50, from Surrey was killed along with his wife Iqbal, 47, his mother-in-law and a French cyclist last month in an attack that left his seven-year-old daughter, Zainab, badly injured, and her four-year-old sister Zeena deeply traumatised.

Mr Al-Hilli’s father Kadhim was once close to Saddam’s Ba’ath Party, but fell foul of the tyrant in the Seventies, and fled Iraq for Britain.

The scene of the September 5 massacre – an isolated lay-by near Lake Annecy in Eastern France – is only an hour’s drive from Geneva where the money was deposited. Swiss prosecutor Dario Zanni believes the family may have been returning from there when ambushed.

It raises the possibility that Mr Al-Hilli had managed to gain access to the account, which is thought to have remained in his father’s name, and that this was known to his killer.

The story was reported in the respected French newspaper Le Monde. It said that a French police source had revealed that the money’s source had been discovered by German intelligence agency BND.

The agency’s operatives routinely monitored the flow of cash to and from Baghdad as Germany did more business with the Saddam regime than any other country.

An intelligence source in Munich said last night: ‘They know the money trail, and they know how to follow it. They have spent decades monitoring money transactions between the West and Iraq. The BND is the first port of call in such circumstances.’

The BND said they had no comment on the report, saying: ‘We do not comment on operations.’

The Le Monde story was published under the headline: ‘The potential links between the Al-Hillis and Saddam Hussein.’

It said: ‘According to a French police source, the German secret service informed the gendarmerie’s anti-terrorist branch that there were links between the Al-Hilli family and Saddam Hussein’s fortune.

‘The tensions began after Saad Al-Hilli’s father [Kadhim] was struck off the list of beneficiaries of the former Iraqi dictator.’

It has always been suggested that Kadhim’s multi-million pound legacy – he died last year – led to conflict between Saad, who lived in Claygate, Surrey, and his brother Zaid who lives in nearby Chessington. However Zaid strongly denies there was any such feud.

Shortly after his murder, it emerged that Saad Al-Hilli had put a block on his father’s will, which effectively stopped his brother from inheriting his share until ‘unknown’ disputes were resolved.

But Le Monde says it was the money in the Swiss bank account – not the rest of the legacy – that may have caused friction between the two brothers.

Swiss investigators discovered the secret account earlier this month, but according to Le Monde they didn’t make the link to Iraq.

Specialist police were last week questioning Geneva-based bankers about the Al-Hillis’ assets, while financial records in countries including America have also been requested.

Kadhim, a former factory owner, left Baghdad in the late Seventies with his wife, Fasiha, and two boys, after allegedly falling foul of the Ba’ath Party. The family settled in Pimlico, Central London, later moving to Surrey.

Another theory is that Kadhim never fell out with the Ba’ath Party at all – and that he was simply managing many accounts for Saddam behind this smokescreen.

Shortly before the dictator was executed in 2006, it was revealed that he withdraw around £620 million from the Iraqi central bank in 2003, which he had begun to hide 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 large amounts in Switzerland and France, where he had at least two homes and moored a £17 million yacht.

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.

Eric Maillaud, the Annecy prosecutor leading the inquiry into the quadruple killing, 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.

Another theory previously mooted was that Mr Al-Hilli was targeted by Iranian spies desperate to get their hands on high-resolution satellite technology. The Briton was an expert in that field, and worked for Surrey Satellite Technology in Guildford.

Emmanuel Ludot, a French lawyer who defended Saddam Hussein following his capture, admitted that the deposed regime still had funds in Swiss accounts, but said the notion of a ‘hidden fortune’ was fantasy.

Zaid Al-Hilli has been questioned by police, but is being treated solely as a witness after denying any involvement in the slaughter. When asked about the Le Monde story, Zaid told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘It’s all rubbish, they can speculate until they’re blue in the face to be honest with you.’

Further asked if his father had ever mentioned links to Saddam, he said: ‘We have no links with that regime. We live outside [Iraq] because of that regime, that’s why we have been here for 41 years.’

In a separate development, it emerged yesterday that Mr Al-Hilli made a desperate attempt to drive his family to safety under a hail of bullets, but his car got stuck on a verge. The gunmen then moved in to finish them off at close range. Investigators believe the killer was alone and used only one weapon, a pistol common in the Swiss army in the Twenties and Thirties.

Zainab told police she and her father were outside the car when the shooting started. Unable to get her into the car, he then attempted to escape in the vehicle with the rest of the family under fire.

However, as he backed up to get away, the car became stuck on an embankment, leaving the family at the mercy of the killer who then shot the three adults, including Mr Al-Hilli’s mother-in-law Suhaila Al-Allaf in the head.

While it is unclear when cyclist Sylvain Mollier was killed, it appears his body was hit by the Al-Hillis’ car during the attempted escape.

After running out of ammunition, the killer pistol-whipped the older girl in the face, but was apparently interrupted and fled the scene.

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