Top Vienna murder unit gets Libyan oil boss case


Vienna’s top homicide investigation team is probing the drowning of Libya’s former oil chief but that does not mean they think he was murdered, prosecutors said.

The body of Shokri Ghanem, a confidant of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi who fled to Austria after defecting last year, was found floating in the river Danube on Sunday. Ghanem’s son Mohammed flew with the body to Tripoli on Thursday and a funeral was planned for Friday, his nephew Loayi Ghanem told Reuters.

Police have said they have no reason to suspect foul play but the circumstances surrounding his death remain under investigation, Reuters reports.

The case is being run as a murder investigation, Vienna prosecutors spokesman Thomas Vecsey said, but only because the legal code lacks other designations police could use.
“We still have no suspicion at all of foul play. We still have no suspicion of murder,” he added.

The so-called Hoffmann group at Vienna’s office of criminal investigations – named after its leader – is in charge of the case, Vecsey said.

In Tripoli, a coffin wrapped in a white cloth carrying Ghanem’s body was taken off a Turkish Airlines plane coming from Istanbul. It had a small tag with Ghanem’s name, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

Ghanem’s body was driven away from the airport in an ambulance and taken to the family home in the Libyan capital, his nephew said.

Ghanem, who was wanted in Libya for questioning in a graft inquiry, was a former Libyan prime minister who also ran the Libyan oil industry before defecting a year ago during the uprising that toppled Gaddafi.

That made him privy to potentially damaging information on oil deals with Western governments and oil firms.

He would have had enemies among Gaddafi’s opponents because of his years at the centre of power, as well as among the late leader’s friends and kin because of his decision to defect.

A passerby discovered Ghanem’s fully clothed body in the Danube, a few hundred metres (yards) from his home in a 22-storey apartment block.

Friends and colleagues have said they suspect enemies may have killed Ghanem, 69, who knew more than anyone about Gaddafi’s suspected multi-billion-dollar fortune. Associates have also said he was worried about health problems.