PUBLISHED:17:59 EST, 3 November 2012| UPDATED:05:51 EST, 4 November 2012
The British engineer murdered in the French Alps has been linked to a secret trust thought to contain up to £15 million in illegal kickbacks to Saddam Hussein’s regime.
It was set up in the tax haven of Liechtenstein and was one of hundreds the Iraqi tyrant and his cronies used worldwide to hide money skimmed from the UN oil-for-food programme, according to intelligence sources.
Emails and mobile phone calls intercepted by Swiss intelligence agency FIS and passed to their German counterparts suggest that Saad Al-Hilli may have been about to access the money, or part of it, shortly before he was killed.
Saad Al-Hilli (left), who worked on map-making satellites in his job at SSTL in Guildford. He was murdered in a suspected assassination while on holiday with his family in France. Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (right) holds up a gun in 1991
Mr Al-Hilli, 50, from Surrey, his wife Iqbal, 47, his mother-in-law and a French cyclist were shot dead in a lay-by near Lake Annecy in eastern France in September.
French police have been left baffled by the slaughter, in which Mr Al-Hilli’s seven-year-old daughter Zainab was badly injured and her four-year-old sister Zeena was traumatised.
Located between Switzerland and Austria, the tiny principality of Liechtenstein is a four-hour drive from where the Al-Hilli family were staying.
Sources told The Mail on Sunday that the emails suggested Iraqi-born Mr Al-Hilli – who has also been linked to a Swiss account containing £840,000 – was about to receive further instructions from Baghdad. However, either they did not materialise or were not intercepted.
While sketchy, the claims raise questions about whether the killers knew or suspected Mr Al-Hilli had access to large deposits of cash.
There have been reports that his late 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. Alternatively, it has been suggested this was a smokescreen and that Kadhim’s true role was to manage secret accounts for the regime.
Aerial photo of the car at the murder scene in the forrest near Chevaline and Lake Annecy in the French Alps
The oil-for-food programme was supposed to allow Iraq to buy food and other essential supplies with the proceeds of regulated oil sales.
US investigators later discovered that Saddam’s regime made billions of pounds from selling oil to neighbouring states, and through kickbacks and illegal surcharges.
David Aufhauser, former counsel to the US Treasury, who led the global hunt for Saddam’s assets until 2004, said yesterday: ‘Billions were unaccounted for and most of it was hidden abroad.’
German investigators have told French intelligence services about the Liechtenstein trust.
Last week it was claimed that Mr Al-Hilli had access to a Geneva account in the name of his father.
Annecy prosecutor Eric Maillaud confirmed the Al-Hillis’ financial affairs and Iraq connections were at the top of investigators’ agenda.
But he said he knew ‘absolutely nothing’ about any links with Liechtenstein, and denied German or Swiss intelligence had provided important information.
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