Iraqi money: biggest theft in US history
Auditors investigating a missing $6.6 billion in cash that was airlifted to Iraq to help rebuild the country after the 2003 invasion believe the huge sum may have been stolen.
Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, says the missing $6 billion-plus may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."
In May of 2004, the US sent 21 planeloads of cash, shrink-wrapped and hauled in C-130 Hercules cargo crafts, into Iraq. That was the plan, at least. The $12-billion haul was believed to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time, but over half of the loot disappeared. Now federal auditors are saying this might not have been just a tiny accounting error but rather a major heist.
If you’re having a hard time picturing what 21 cargo planes of cash looks like, think about this: that’s enough money to launch around ten US space shuttles. Or, as the LA Times puts it, enough money to run the Chicago Public School system for an entire year.
After being flown out of Andrews Air Force Base, US officials say the money was stored in a basement vault at one of the palaces that once belonged to Saddam Hussein, as well as some military bases. The money was apparently distributed among Iraqi ministries and contractors as part of the Development Fund for Iraq, though the Pentagon has been unable to locate the $6-billion during the last six years. They have contended that they could account for the money if given enough time to leaf through all of their records, but documentation and the denominations have yet to be located. Now auditors are thinking the money was just plain stolen.
Given a 2004 legal agreement signed by two two countries, Iraqi officials are arguing that the disappearance puts the US at fault. Now the Iraqi government is considering taking America to court to reclaim the money.
Speaking to The Guardian years earlier, a former senior official at the governing Coalition Provisional Authority made claims that he and others “played football with some of the bricks of $100 bills before delivery.”
“It was a wild-west crazy atmosphere, the likes of which none of us had ever experienced.”