Saddam's fortune in France?
U.S. agents conducting search

Thursday, May 8, 2003

The United States has launched a search for at least $1 billion stolen by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and believed to have been hidden in neighboring Syria, Lebanon or France.

U.S. officials said Saddam and his family took more than $900 million in cash from the Iraqi Central Bank on the eve of the U.S.-led war against Baghdad. They said the money was believed to have been smuggled to Syria then Lebanon and possibly France.

The U.S. Treasury Department has been authorized to find the money, officials said. They said a Treasury Department delegation has been conducting its search in Iraq and several neighboring countries, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We do know from Treasury Department officials in Baghdad that approximately $1 billion was taken from the Iraqi Central Bank by Saddam Hussein and his family just prior to the start of combat operations," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Tuesday. "We are working to hunt down the assets that were stolen by the regime of Saddam Hussein. We will actively follow up on all of the leads."

Boucher said the United States has appealed to other countries to cooperate in the search. This would include the freezing of any assets suspected of being stolen by Saddam and his family.

Officials said the issue of the missing $900 million was raised in Lebanon and Syria during the visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to Beirut and Damascus last week. They said both Lebanese and Syrian leaders denied any knowledge of the Iraqi funds.

Last month, U.S. military forces found more than $800 million in cash in several locations around Baghdad. About $600 million was found in Saddam's palaces and about $200 million was discovered in an armored vehicle. Officials said they were not certain whether the currency was from the Iraqi Central Bank.

"Don't know exactly where they came from, whether it was from the Central Bank or not, but that's an awful lot of cash they found already," Boucher said.

Officials said the Treasury Department obtained testimony from Iraqi employees of the Central Bank that members of Saddam's family removed the cash in wheelbarrows. The money was then stuffed into tractor-trailers that left Baghdad in the direction of Syria.

The Treasury Department has assessed that some of Saddam's assets were transferred to Lebanon and Syria in 2002 and early 2003, officials said.

They said much of the money was believed to have been transferred to Lebanese banks as well as toward investments in property and real estate.

"It also pretty well confirms that there's an awful lot of U.S. dollars there, which is the product of illicit commerce," Treasury Department general counsel David Aufhauser said in a television interview.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover

Back to School Sweepstakes