• 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

By Robert Verkaik

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 

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 

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 

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

 

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