Worldwide hunt for Saddam's money

Monday, April 14, 2003

The United States has launched a search for Saddam Hussein's fortune.

The assessment by U.S. officials is that much of the money has been funneled through Lebanon and Syria.

U.S. officials said Saddam's fortune could have exceeded $10 billion. They said the United States has located about $1.2 billion in Iraqi assets around the world since the war began last month.

"We are directing a worldwide hunt for the blood money that Hussein and his cronies have stolen from the Iraqi people," Treasury Secretary John Snow said.

A key figure in Saddam's finances was Barzan Ibrahim Tikriti, the half-brother of the deposed president, Middle East Newsline reported. Tikriti, a former ambassador to Switzerland, is said to have been killed in a U.S. bombing attack on his home in Tikrit on Thursday.

Officials and Arab diplomatic sources said Saddam smuggled a huge amount of assets in February and March. They said envoys traveled to Beirut and prepared bank accounts abroad.

Lebanese opposition sources said Saddam Hussein prepared for the prospect of the demise of his regime by depositing $1 billion in a Lebanese bank in a deal that involved the family of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. They said Lahoud's son transferred Saddam's fortune to the Beirut-based Al Mawared Bank.

The U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon quoted what it termed reliable Lebanese sources that the Lahouds arranged a deal for the trading of Iraqi oil. The committee cited this as the reason for the Lebanese president's opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The General Accounting Office, the audit agency of Congress, said in a recent report that the Saddam regime raised more than $6 billion between 1997 and 2001 from oil revenues that did not go through the United Nations.

The GAO said much of the revenues stemmed from illegal oil exports to Jordan, Syria and Turkey.

The Coalition for International Justice said in a report in September 2002 that Iraqi oil flow to Syria garnered $1.1 billion in revenue in 2002.

The report said the oil smuggling was supervised by Saddam's younger son, Qusay, who took over from his older brother, Uday.

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