Nakachian and Melodie in 1989, two years after the kidnapping. :: SUR
He was a wealthy business tycoon. He was a regular at jet-set parties and charity galas in Marbella and was married to a famous opera singer from South Korea.
The name of the multifaceted Raymond Nakachian, who was born in Tripoli in 1932 and died on Monday in Estepona, could sound familiar for a number of reasons. However he is best remembered for a terrible event: the kidnapping of his five-year-old daughter Melodie in November 1987.
Nakachian, of Lebanese origin, who made his fortune from oil and construction in Saudia Arabia, had only been in living on the Costa del Sol for five years when a gang of French criminals kidnapped his daughter Melodie on the way to school with her older brother.
The kidnapping was a meticulously organised professional operation. Nakachian’s elder son’s car was blocked by two members of the gang and they took the girl from the car in a matter of seconds. They were heavily armed and were wearing hoods.
The event shook public opinion around the world and for eleven long days all attention was focused on the Costa del Sol, more specifically on the gates of ‘Villa Melodie,’ the luxurious villa where Nakachian lived with his wife, Kimera, and his two children.
With a surprisingly calm temperament, Nakachian appeared in public to inform of the daily developments in the case. The only time that his spirit seemed to waver was when the kidnappers sent him a lock of his daughter’s hair in the mail. The kidnappers demanded 13 million dollars, an amount that was substantially reduced in the days that followed.
A happy ending
The chilling event thankfully had a happy ending. A clue found in Torremolinos led the GEO (Special Operations Force) to an apartment in Torreguadiario, Cadiz, where Melodie was being held captive by one man.
In consecutive operations carried out in Spain and France all the members of the gang were captured including Nadine Ettiene, a French citizen and Marbella resident, whose child was in the same class at school as Melodie. Her participation was crucial in providing information to the criminals prior to the kidnapping.
She was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 1992 by the Provincial Court in Malaga, but disappeared without trace before her sentenced was ratified.
The event sparked a close friendship between Nakachian and the police officers who directed the operation, and who were said to be generously rewarded. Nakachian put his luck down to his religious beliefs.
Two years ago saw the 25th anniversary of the kidnapping. In an interview Nakachian told SUR that the 17 gang members were either in prison for other offences or dead, except for Nadine Ettiene, whose whereabouts remain unknown.
In the last few years, Nakachian had stopped going to the Marbella parties and galas he used to frequent. He said that his business success had diminished and it appears that he sold the majority of the land on which ‘Villa Melodie’ stands, although he kept the house where he lived until his death.
Raymond Nakachian died on Monday at four o’clock in the morning accompanied by his wife, Kimera, and his children Melodie and Amir. He was 82. His body was cremated in Estepona on Thursday afternoon.