Former Libyan Oil Minister Drowns in Vienna

Shukri Ghanem drowned amid questions his death was suicide, accident or payback.

April 30, 2012— -- Libya's former oil minister, one of the most prominent officials to defect from the Gadhafi regime, died by drowning in the Danube River, an autopsy has concluded today amid questions whether it was an accident, a suicide or the result of international payback.

Shukri Ghanem, 69, who was the country's prime minister between 2003 and 2006 and the oil minister from 2008 to 2011, was discovered fully clothed, floating in the Danube at 8:40 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Vienna police spokesman Roland Hahslinger told ABC News there was no indication of violence on Ghanem's body and no indications suggesting he had committed suicide.

He added, however, "There would be no signs of violence if someone pushed him."

When asked if Ghanem could have jumped from the bridge, the officer said, "A pontoon bridge is 100 meters from where he was found floating. It's high enough to get killed."

Hahslinger said no suicide note has been found and there was no evidence Ghanem was under threat, but "all options are still open."

The former prime minister apparently left his appartment sometime during the night for unknown reasons and without his 28-year-old daughter Aya noticing.

Ghanem's daughter eventually noticed he was missing around 10 a.m. Sunday, by which time the body had already been found. He was carrying no identification, but police found on him the address of a Viennese company that allowed him to be identified.

An associated who saw Ghanem the Sunday before he died told ABC News that Ghanem was not suicidal.

Police also said they had no indications that Ghanem was in a suicidal mood.

Ghanem had created a new consultant firm based in Vienna on Feb. 20. His associates in this energy consultant firm are all former oil ministers of OPEC countries: Iraq's Issam Chalabi (1987 – 1990) Algeria's Chakib Khelil (1999- 2010), and Rilwanu Lukman (1986-1990) from Nigeria.

He was said to be one of very few ex- Gadhafi technocrats who could still trade oil with Libya. The country exports 1.2 million barrels a day, compared to 1.8 million barrels before the civil war.

The police spokesman said the results of toxicological tests are expected later this week as part of the investigation into the drowning.

On May 18, 2011, hours after ICC chief prosecutor called for the arrest of Gadhafi for mass murder, Ghanem quietly crossed by car into neighbouring Tunisia. It was just weeks before he was due to represent Libya at an OPEC meeting in Vienna. For some time after his defection Gadhafi found it impossible to believe that someone so loyal defected. For days government spokesmen insisted that Ghanem was travelling abroad for business.

At the time Ghanem criticized the bloodshed in Libya, saying the violence meted out by the regime had become "unbearable" and made his position untenable.