x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Singer received death threats

A friend of Suzan Tamim says the singer had complained to police in London of threats against her life.

Suzan Tamim reported being harassed and followed in London months before she was murdered in Dubai.
Suzan Tamim reported being harassed and followed in London months before she was murdered in Dubai.

The Lebanese singer Suzan Tamim reported threats on her life to police in the UK months before she was found stabbed to death in Dubai, raising questions about whether more could have been done to protect her.

Tamim, 31, who lived in London for 18 months before she was murdered, reported the "threats to kill" to the Metropolitan Police as long as a year ago, a spokesman for the force confirmed yesterday. She is said to have been routinely followed, harassed and subjected to telephone threats while living in London. Tamim was found dead in the living room of her flat in Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Residence on July 28 with multiple knife wounds to her face and body, just days after she had moved to the UAE from London.

When asked if more could have been done by the authorities to prevent her death, the Metropolitan Police spokesman said the force was satisfied it had "thoroughly investigated the matter brought to us". "The murder didn't occur in London, it occurred abroad. No offences were discovered within our jurisdiction," he added. Hisham Talaat Moustafa, 48, a prominent figure in Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party and a member of the Shura Council, has been charged with paying US$2 million (Dh7.35m) to a hitman to have the singer murdered.

Mohsen al Sokari, a former Egyptian police officer who has been charged with the stabbing, is believed to have followed the singer from London to Dubai. In an interview with London's Sunday Times, Riyadh al Azzawi, an Iraqi kick-boxing champion who lived with Tamim in London and claims to have married her, said the police failed to act decisively when the couple reported the incidents. "I was there to protect her, but was doing it all by myself," he told the newspaper. "I didn't get any help."

Mr Azzawi said he believed the threats came from Moustafa, who is believed to have had an affair with the pop star. He said officers arranged for the couple to have a panic alarm installed, and told them to keep in regular touch, but they failed to warn off Moustafa. "Suzan told me that he had phoned her and said that if she left me and went to marry him he would pay her $50 million. He then said that if she refused he would then kill her with $1 million," Mr Azzawi said.

On another occasion Moustafa, who is also chairman of Egypt's largest publicly traded real estate company, phoned the couple's flat in London's Knightsbridge district, Mr Azzawi told the newspaper. "He said, 'Forget about this girl. I'll kill her and kill you if you don't give me the girl'." Mr Azzawi provided police with recordings of several of the phone calls, the Sunday Times reported, including one from a man who claimed to be a hitman who had received instructions to kill him, but instead tipped him off when he had decided not to go through with the job.

The Metropolitan Police declined to discuss whether any action was taken to safeguard the star after the report was lodged. "We never discuss matters of personal protection," the spokesman said. "No complaints have been made to us about our handling of the matter." Sokari and Moustafa are currently awaiting trial in Egypt for the murder. Sokari was arrested by Egyptian police three days after the killing at the request of Dubai Police. He had flown from Dubai to Egypt within two hours of the killing.

The pair initially planned to commit the murder in London, according to recordings of five phone calls between them obtained by an Egyptian newspaper. In the tapes Sokari tells Moustafa he did not get a chance to "do it" in London and would kill Tamim in Dubai, the newspaper said. Tamim rose to fame after winning a talent contest in Lebanon in 1996. She released several successful albums but her career was overshadowed by stories about her private life.

Although at the time of her death Tamim was still officially married to her estranged husband, Adel Maatouk, her former Lebanese producer, Mr Azzawi said after the killing he was also married to her. In 2005, she was questioned by Interpol in Egypt over claims that she stole US$350,000 (Dh1.29m) from Mr Maatouk. She later faced allegations in Egypt of being involved in a heroin smuggling ring with her father and was also accused of trying to murder Mr Maatouk after gunmen shot at his car in a Beirut suburb.

Earlier this year Moustafa tried to sue her for the return of millions of dollars worth of gifts he claimed to have given her. lmorris@thenational.ae