[The following are excerpts from yet another breathless article in The Sunday Times.]
The Lockerbie bomber had £1.8m in a Swiss bank account when he was convicted eight years ago, it has been revealed.
The Crown Office, Scotland’s equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service, has confirmed it refused to grant bail to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi as recently as November last year because of concerns he might try to gain access to the money.
[Note by RB: At no time during the bail hearing, which I attended, did the Crown oppose interim liberation on the basis that Mr Megrahi had a bank account in Switzerland with large amounts of money in it. Nor was this one of the reasons for refusing bail given by the court in its judgment. Is the Crown Office being economical with the truth here, or did the ST journalist misunderstand what was being said to him?]
The existence of such a large sum in a personal account casts doubt on claims by the Libyan government that Megrahi was a low-ranking airline worker. (...)
[Note by RB: It has never been claimed by the Libyan government or by Mr Megrahi or his lawyers that he was "a low-ranking airline employee". He was Head of Security for Libyan Arab Airlines, a very high-level post. But that obviously does not fit the spurious case that The Sunday Times is trying to punt.]
Sources close to Megrahi’s defence team said they were aware of the bank account and had several explanations prepared ahead of his trial in the Netherlands in 2000.
They included the claim that he had been given the money by Libyan Arab Airlines, his employer, to buy aircraft parts abroad in breach of the western trade embargo in place against his country at the time of the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am plane over Scotland, in which 270 people died.
Another explanation would have been that Megrahi had been entrusted with the funds to finance an attempt to include Libya in the Paris to Dakar rally. The issue of the account was never raised by the prosecution because it came too late to be introduced as evidence at his trial. (...)
Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am 103, which represents American families, said: “This new evidence shows one more reason why Megrahi was not willing to testify.
“It seems to me that he was never the little family man who was unjustly incarcerated, as he has portrayed. He was a lifetime terrorist. The latest revelations about the money in Megrahi’s bank account are devastating to those who still say he was an innocent, low-level airline employee.”
However, Martin Cadman, whose son Bill, 32, died in the bombing, said: “I believe the case wasn’t proved against Megrahi and the easiest thing to do was to ship him back to Libya before we could hear his appeal. The money doesn’t mean he carried out the bombing.” (...)
[The following is an excerpt from the High Court's judgment in Mr Megrahi's bail application:
" Another factor which can bear on release on bail is any risk of flight. The Advocate depute submitted that, although the Crown had no information to suggest that the applicant, if released on bail, had any intention of absconding, there were elements in his history, including his involvement with the Libyan intelligence services, which presented a possible risk of flight. He urged the court not to rely on the recent undertakings given by a senior official of the Libyan Diplomatic Corps to the effect that the applicant would not, if he were to attempt to abscond, be received into Libya.
" The Court is not persuaded that there is a material risk of the applicant absconding, particularly if any liberation ad interim was made subject to the kind of conditions which the Crown would seek or which the applicant would accept. The applicant's historical connection with security services, which at some time may have given him access to false passports and other like facilities, does not, standing the Libyan Government's assurances, appear to the Court to be of significant current relevance."
The Journalists blog has some harsh things to say about Mark Macaskill, the journalist responsible for this and other Lockerbie stories in The Sunday Times.]