Body of Libyan oil minister flown out of Austria

The body of the former Libyan minister Shukri Ghanem, who was found dead in the Danube last week, has been transported to the Libyan capital Tripoli on Thursday.

The coffin with Ghanem’s name on it arrived in Tripoli yesterday, according to wire agencies. The Austrian officials were initially not ready to confirm this information.

Meanwhile, the public prosecutor are still investigating the former minister’s death. There is, as of yet, any cause to believe that he was murdered, according to Thomas Vecsey, speaker for the public prosecutor.

Austrian officials are not confirming whether a murder investigation has been started or not. Vecsay said: “We want to clarify the facts and continue the investigation. We have yet to encounter any evidence of third party negligence.”

The Thursday edition of the “Kurier” included a story on how there was now a suspicion of murder involved in the Ghanem case. In response to this, Vecsey admitted that it was filed as a murder investigation but that was not because there was evidence of such a crime. He said: “We have to name the investigation something, and “mugging” would not be fitting.”

According to preliminary autopsy reports, the cause of death was drowning, but how the once-Prime Minister of Libya ended up in the River Danube remains unclear. The toxicology report is only expected next week, and it should explain more about Ghanem’s death. If the ex-Minister could swim, or if he was followed remain key points of the investigation.

Since no suicide note has been found, and the police received no emergency calls from the man, the reason for Ghanem’s appearance in the Danube remains a mystery. The police have not been informed of any potential threats against him.

Issam Khalabi, former oil minister of Iran and Ghanem’s business partner was interviewed by Reuters on Tuesday. According to him, the Libyan could not swim. He had also told many of his friends to be careful, since he did not believe that what happened to Ghanem was an accident.

The former minister did not only incur the wrath of Libya’s old government when he deserted in May last year, but the present government also blames him for a number of “shady” oil deals he is said to have gone through with in the past.

According to another former oil minister, Ghanem had been concerned about his security and had reportedly had the feeling of being followed. The family of the deceased have now gone into hiding.

Ghanem used to be a part of Gaddafi’s inner circle until he abandoned the government last year. He was Prime Minister of Libya between 2003 and 2006, and from 2006 to 2011 he was in charge of the stately-run oil business as the Minister of Oil. Despite his past loyalties he still accused the old government of having used intolerable violence against the Libyan population.

Before his desertion, it was revealed that the Gaddafi regime kept millions of Euros in Austria, and it was believed that Ghanem had brought them here – but later the EU and the UN declared that Ghanem had also been a target of sanctions, and so he would not have been able to move the vast sums alleged.

At present, he is being investigated in Libya for corruption. This was revealed on Wednesday, but the public prosecutor Abdelaziz al-Hasadi has not given any details except to say that the former minister had been called back to Libya. He said: “We just need solid information from him, because right now we have no answers.”

A passerby notified the police after having seen Ghanem’s body floating in the River Danube at 08:40 on Sunday morning last week. The body was floating with the head submerged and was wearing street clothes. It had been in the water for two hours at the most. The body was retrieved by a police boat, and was later identified.

Ghanem’s daughter noticed at 10:00 on Sunday morning that her father was not at home. According to the family he had spent the Saturday evening with his daughter, watching television.