London: The Lockerbie bomber had a secret fortune of nearly £2 million (Dh11.8 million) in a Swiss bank account before his conviction eight years ago, it was revealed on Sunday.
Abdul Basset Ali Mohammad Al Megrahi was said by the Libyan government to be a low-ranking airline worker.
Yet he had a bank balance of £1.8 million when he was found guilty of the murder of 270 people in the Pan Am bombing, which happened above the Scottish town of Lockerbie 21 years ago yesterday.
The disclosure dramatically weakened claims by the 57-year-old Libyan and his supporters that he was not responsible for Britain's worst act of mass murder.
Scottish prosecutors admitted on Sunday they refused to grant bail to terminally-ill Al Megrahi in November last year because of concerns he might try to gain access to the money.
Al Megrahi was eventually freed early on compassionate grounds on August 20 in the belief that he had only three months to live.
Tory MP Ben Wallace, a member of Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee, which is inquiring into the circumstances of Al Megrahi's release, said the existence of the bank account was a "startling" revelation.
He said: "I think this suggests that [Al] Megrahi, far from being the wrong man, was an international co- ordinator of terrorism for Libya".
Sources close to Al 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 his employer, Libyan Arab Airlines, to buy aircraft parts abroad in breach of the western trade embargo in place against his country at the time of the bombing.
Another explanation would have been that Al Megrahi had been entrusted with the funds to finance an attempt to include Libya in the Paris to Dakar car 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.
Last month it emerged that Al Megrahi was implicated in the purchase and development of chemical weapons by Libya, according to documents produced by the US government.
The papers also claimed that he sought to buy 1,000 letter bombs from Greek arms dealers while working as a Libyan intelligence officer.
The decision to release Al Megrahi angered the US government and families of the victims, who said he should not have been allowed to return to Tripoli.
A new medical report from Tripoli claims that Al Megrahi's condition has deteriorated and that his prostate cancer has spread through his body.