Viennese police insisted on Monday that a former Libyan premier found dead in the river Danube had drowned, but a Libyan security source suggested he could have been murdered by political enemies.
Libya’s former prime minister and oil minister Shokri Ghanem’s fully clothed body was found in the Danube in Vienna on Sunday, a few hundred metres from his home. According to a preliminary autopsy there were no indications of foul play or suicide, spokesman Roman Hahslinger told reporters.
A Libyan security source said they were investigating the death and believed he could have been pushed into the Danube by former Muammar Gaddafi agents.
His body was found at 8:40 a.m. on Sunday by a passerby near the entertainment area known as Copa Cagrana, where a footpath winds along the riverbank. He had spent Saturday evening watching television with his daughter.
The former Gaddafi confidant, who was also close to Col. Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, was privy to potentially damaging information including oil deals with Western governments.
Mr. Ghanem, 69, had been chairman of Libya’s state-owned National Oil Corporation before defecting last year several months after opponents of Col. Gaddafi had risen up against the Libyan leader and begun a rebellion.
Saad Djebbar, a U.K.-based Algerian lawyer who knew Mr. Ghanem and advised the Libyan government, said the former prime minister was not the sort of man to kill himself.
“He was worried about the future course of politics in Libya but he would not be the kind of man for suicide. He was very well introduced internationally and had lots of connections,” he said.
“Shokri Ghanem definitely is one of the guys who knew a lot and was one of the most powerful guys in the old regime,” said David Bachmann, an Austrian Chamber of Commerce official who knew Mr. Ghanem well.
Mr. Bachmann said he would not have been surprised to read that former Libyan rebels had taken revenge on Mr. Ghanem, but said Gaddafi allies could also have held a grudge.
“The problem was he was sitting between the chairs. For the old guys [in the Gaddafi regime] he was a defector, a kind of a rat. For the rebels he was also a rat because he did not defect early enough,” Mr. Bachmann said.
(Source: The National Post)