The McLean businessman who was found dead in his home Friday along with his wife and teenage son had told colleagues that a recent trip to Iraq had landed him a large business deal.
Details of the reported deal could not be learned yesterday, but the business dealings of Fuad K. Taima, who was shot to death along with his wife, Dorothy, and their son, Leith, are a focus of investigations by Fairfax County police and the FBI.
An FBI spokesman confirmed yesterday that agents are searching personal records and files they removed from Taima's home in an attempt to track down his international connections.
Taima, who had a lucrative business with the Iraqis before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, headed an international consulting business that he said dealt with oil and high-technology matters.
Colleagues and sources familiar with the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said yesterday that it is possible that Taima was developing a business relationship with Iraq, dealing mostly in oil technology and computers, and that his recent deal could have raised the ire of Iraqi intelligence forces, which control the lucrative trade monopolies.
"Fuad wanted to make money, but he also had this ambition to play a bigger role in policy and in the community here," said a source who has known Taima for several years. "It's possible that he got in over his head."
Ayad Alawi, secretary general of the London-based Iraqi National Accord -- a group that opposes Saddam Hussein's rule -- said Taima was known to have direct ties to the Iraqi government. "It's very well documented that he is one of the people who trades quite heavily with Iraq," Alawi said, referring to Taima.
The bodies of the Taima family members were found by police Friday. The last known contact with family members was about 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, when Leith Taima finished a lengthy telephone conversation with a friend. Earlier in the evening, Leith had been summoned home by his mother, who told her son that she was uncomfortable being alone with an old acquaintance of her husband's who had made an apparently unexpected visit.
Fairfax County police have said there was no sign of forced entry into the Taima home, and detectives have said there was no sign of a struggle. Detective Robert Murphy said it appeared as if the shootings "took the family by surprise."
Members of the exile Iraqi community, here and in London, said yesterday that the circumstances of the Taimas' deaths are similar to recent executions carried out by Iraqi henchmen over business deals gone bad.
Ahmed Chalabi, the Washington representative from the opposition Iraqi National Congress, said the attack on Taima's family followed the pattern of a familiar Iraqi professional "hit": Someone who knows the family is sent in to allay fear, and then henchmen follow, leaving no signs of forced entry or a struggle.
Saddam Hussein's son Uday was suspected of ordering a January 1998 attack on a businessman in his Amman home, leaving seven men and one woman dead in a dispute over control of a tumultuous sanctions-busting regime. The Amman attack was carried out after the target welcomed his attackers into his home and ate dinner with them.
A friend of Leith Taima's who was at the McLean home on Wednesday night said Leith recognized a man at the home who had come to visit but he had not seen him in several years. Police have not named a suspect in the shooting.
Chalabi said yesterday that the Iraqi community fears Taima's slaying is a manifestation of Saddam Hussein trying to assert influence in the United States. Chalabi said he believes Taima's business dealings led to the shooting.
"The important point to make is that he was associated with the regime in some financial fashion," Chalabi said yesterday. "This is a probable cause for his demise."