The alleged leader of a gang of contract killers being investigated over possible links to the murder of a British family is a businessman from Annecy in the French Alps – near where they were shot dead.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that police are investigating whether the hit squad, whose alleged members include former and serving French intelligence agents, were involved in the killing of Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, and mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, as well as French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, on a mountain road in 2012.
According to sources, the arrest of the gang last year could provide a breakthrough in a case that has baffled French and British police for almost a decade.
The family, from Claygate in Surrey, were shot at point-blank range in their BMW in a woodland layby (pictured, 2012)
The family, from Claygate in Surrey, were shot at point-blank range in their BMW in a woodland layby. Mr Mollier was shot five times and found nearby.
The al-Hillis’ daughters survived. Zeena, four, hid in the footwell, while her sister, Zainab, seven, was shot and beaten.
Police do not know whether the al-Hillis or Mr Mollier, who worked in the nuclear industry, was the target. In 2013, Eric Maillaud, then prosecutor on the case, concluded: ‘We are dealing with a very experienced gunman.’
Now speculation is growing that criminals linked to a Paris Freemasons’ lodge may be involved.
Members of the gang are said to have confessed to spying on, intimidating or assaulting victims. Some reportedly admitted being involved in the killing of a racing driver near Lyons and a plot to murder a business coach in Paris.
In February, it emerged that bullets compatible with the Luger P06 pistol used in the Alps murders had been found at the home of one of the alleged gang – a former senior member of the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence, a French spy agency.
Engineer Saad al-Hilli, the British-Iraqi man killed in September 2012 alongside his wife and mother-in-law
The MoS can reveal that Frederick Vaglio, 50, another alleged gang member, was born in Annecy and had business links there before and after the killings.
Company records show he set up a PR firm in the town in 2009, but it was wound up a few days before the Alps murders.
He then formed a security and corporate intelligence firm called Meliora in 2016, registered to his parents’ address in Annecy. He also ran a firm called Naberat Events, which organised a classic car rally.
A neighbour at his last known address in Paris told the MoS he saw ‘a lot of cars coming and going – often with military types in them’, adding: ‘Gunshots were heard around the house. It’s said the owner of the house used to test his weapons in the grounds.’
Vaglio’s mother, Christiane, said: ‘You have to be careful of gossip and not believe everything.’ French media claims he was offered €75,000 by a fellow Freemason to set up an attack on Marie-Helene Dini, a therapist and business coach.
Two guards from the DGSE, France’s MI6, were allegedly hired to kill her, but were arrested in a car at her home last July armed with knives and a gun. Nine people, including Vaglio, are in custody over the alleged contract on her life.
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that police are investigating whether the hit squad, whose alleged members include former and serving French intelligence agents, were involved in the killing of Saad al-Hilli, 50, his wife Iqbal, 47, and mother-in-law Suhaila al-Allaf, 74, as well as French cyclist Sylvain Mollier, 45, on a mountain road in 2012
Vaglio reportedly accepted a €12,000 contract to target racing driver Laurent Pasquali, 43, whose body was found in September 2019. Radio France claims Vaglio has admitted involvement, but denied ordering his killing.
Referring to the 2012 Alps murders, a police source said: ‘There are potentially comparisons. The operation in the Alps is likely to have involved more than one assassin and it is likely that they had formal military training.
The clues are there. In the Alps case, the assassins have a great deal of luck because nobody sees them. They know how to use a weapon, and they know how to get away.’
A second source confirmed police had not ruled out a connection with the al-Hilli killings.
Prosecutors in Paris and lawyers for Vaglio declined to comment last night.