The macabre shooting of a British-Iraqi family in the French Alps in September has now developed a further layer of intrigue. Reports have emerged that one of the victims, 50-year-old Saad al-Hilli — who was gunned down Sept. 5 alongside his wife and mother in law and a passing French cyclist — had access to a bank account in which the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had deposited some $1 million.
The French newspaper Le Monde claims that al-Hilli’s late father, Kadhim, was responsible for a Swiss bank account controlled by the late dictator’s Baath party—and that following the senior al-Hilli’s death last year, control of the account had passed to his son Saad. The newspaper attributes this report to theBND, Germany‘s foreign intelligence service, which it says has been monitoring the account for many years.
Saddam Hussein, who was executed in December 2006, had allegedly withdrawn several hundreds of millions of dollars from the Iraqi central bank since 2003 and deposited it in accounts around the world.
Officials have been unable to firmly establish a motive for the execution-style killings near Switzerland‘s Lake Annecy, which left al-Hilli’s two young daughters miraculously unscathed.
Given the new evidence from Berlin, which the BND have declined to comment on, it is possible that Saad al-Hilli was in fact the target. Officials already know that al-Hilli was in a dispute with his brother Zaid al-Hilli, 53, over their father’s will.
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The trip itself, some say, is also a clue that supports Le Monde’s claims of a Saddam connection: the family’s vacation itself was oddly timed — coming just as the al-Hilli daughters, aged 4 and 7, were set to begin school — and included a side trip to Geneva, allegedly to check on the secret Swiss bank account. The Daily Beast also reported that al-Hilli changed the locks of his Surrey home in the U.K. before leaving for France, kept an illegal taser in his house and had an online alter ego that he used to post rants onanti-Semitic bulletin boards.
However relatives of the murdered family have spoken out and demanded that the British authorities return the two children, who are currently in foster care in Britain, to the family. Dr. Ahmad al-Saffar, an uncle of Saad’s wife Iqbal, spoke with the Guardian to argue that French cyclist Sylvian Mollier, whom ballistics test showed was shot first, was in fact the target:
“I think the French cyclist was the target. The mounting evidence and leaks are saying the main target was the cyclist. There is no reason for our family to be targeted in France when they were on vacation.”
Mollier worked for a subsidiary of a French nuclear plant specializing in research and development in zirconium products.
Saffar also cast doubt on the claims that the account was linked to Hussein, noting that the elder al-Hilli “left Iraq in the 1970s because of disagreements with the regime.”
Despite the numerous theories, however, prosecutors are no closer to establishing why this murder took place, nor who was the intended target.