- Saad Al-Hilli’s firm may have been under surveillance by Iranian intelligence
- Mr Al-Hilli was murdered in September alongside his wife and mother-in-law
PUBLISHED:18:18 EST, 6 October 2012| UPDATED:19:26 EST, 6 October 2012
Possible target: Saad Al-Hilli’s company may have been watched by Iranian intelligence agents
The satellite firm that employed Alps murder victim Saad Al-Hilli may have been targeted by Iranian intelligence agents desperate to get their hands on high-resolution images of their enemies’ defence and weapons sites.
Mr Al-Hilli, a British Iraqi, had been working on a secret aeronautical project at Surrey Satellite Technology in Guildford.
The Mail on Sunday has established that part of his role was with the company’s renowned digital imaging enterprise, based close to its headquarters.
The 50-year-old engineer, his wife Iqbal, her mother and an unrelated French cyclist were shot dead in a wood near Lake Annecy on September 5.
His daughters Zainab, seven, and Zeena, four, survived the attack.
Security sources say Surrey Satellite Technology had ‘been of interest’ to MI5 for ten years, with the agency conducting surveillance on British-based individuals who made contact with the firm.
At the time of his death, Mr Al-Hilli was also involved in an aerial photography company, AMS 1087, based in Swindon.
Last night his partner in that business, James Barnett, said he did not wish to discuss his work or his relationship with Mr Al-Hilli.
One security expert said: ‘The Iranians are desperate to acquire cutting-edge technology, which they cannot legally obtain.
‘If they were either getting it from Mr Al-Hilli, or hoped to get it from him and he refused, they would not think twice about killing him.’
Iran’s key focus would most likely be Israel, which is fiercely protective of high-resolution satellite images of its facilities.
Scene: Aerial photo of the Al-Hillis’ car at the murder scene in the French Alps where Saad al-Hilli, his wife, Iqbal, and his mother-in-law, were killed
Ali Ansari, professor of history at St Andrews University and an Iran expert at defence think-tank Chatham House, told The Mail on Sunday that Iran did not want to be ‘behind the technological curve’ but added: ‘I can’t imagine anyone selling this to them.’
Yesterday a judge in Geneva –less than an hour’s drive from the Alpine murder scene – suggested that shortly before he died, Mr Al-Hilli had visited the city where he had access to a private bank account containing a ‘sizeable amount of cash’.
In a separate development, it was reported that Mr Al-Hilli had changed the locks of his home in Surrey before he went to France, apparently to stop his estranged brother entering the property.
Protection: Mr Al-Hilli had recently changed the locks at the family home in Claygate, Surrey, allegedly to keep his brother out of the property