Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

GIs Held in Bid to Steal $1M of Saddam's Cash; WAR AFTERMATH PLOT TO TAKE BOOTY MIRRORS CLOONEY FILM THREE KINGS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

GIs Held in Bid to Steal $1M of Saddam's Cash; WAR AFTERMATH PLOT TO TAKE BOOTY MIRRORS CLOONEY FILM THREE KINGS

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES LANGTON

A GANG of American GIs in Baghdad who embarked on an audacious plot to smuggle nearly $1 million (pound sterling600,000) from Saddam's secret cash hoard back to the US are under arrest today.

Imitating the plot of the film Three Kings the soldiers took the money - in bundles of uncirculated $100 bills - after uncovering a vast fortune hidden in the grounds of one of Saddam Hussein's palaces around the Iraqi capital.

Like the George Clooney film, which was set in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and featured gold bullion plundered by Saddam from Kuwait, they hoped to make their fortune by sneaking the money home.

The four soldiers are all part of the 4th Battalion of the 64th Armoured Division, which found up to $700 million (pound sterling480 million), apparently abandoned by senior officials of the Ba'ath Party and the Republican Guard as they fled the city.

Their unit uncovered 37 steel boxes, each containing $4 million (pound sterling2.6 million) in $100 notes.

Suspicions were aroused when senior US officers noticed that although all the boxes were identical in size and weight, one had several bundles less than the others.

After a search was ordered, around $300,000 (pound sterling200,000) was found concealed in the glove compartment of a cargo lorry. The rest had been hidden in a tree near the house where the money was first found. "You can understand how greed took over," one US officer said. "Just one wad of this cash can pay off your mortgage, send your kids to school, et cetera."

The names of the four GIs have not been released, but they now face courts martial and lengthy prison sentences. The money was found on Friday when two soldiers looking for a chainsaw to cut down branches near their new headquarters noticed a cottage with its windows and doors barricaded with concrete blocks.

After breaking through the walls they found the money, which has now been taken to Baghdad airport for safekeeping and will be double-checked to make sure that it is not fake. …

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