U.S. soldiers reported under...
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|Thu, 04-24-2003 - 10:13am|
Army soldiers find another $112 million U.S. currency in Baghdad neighborhood.
NBC, MSNBC AND NEWS SERVICES
WASHINGTON, April 23 â€” U.S. soldiers found over $100 million in U.S. currency sealed inside seven dog kennels in a wealthy Baghdad neighborhood of mansions and rose gardens where top Baath Party and Republican Guard officials once lived, military officials told NBC News on Wednesday, confirming a story that first appeared in Los Angeles Times. In a related development, investigators from the Armyâ€™s Criminal Investigation Division were questioning six American soldiers about an undisclosed amount of missing cash, the report said, and was later confirmed by the U.S. Army for NBC news.
THE SIX SOLDIERS under investigation, all from the Third Infantry Division, included four already under investigation for $900,000 stolen and recovered Friday from the cash in the cottages, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Of that amount, $600,000 was found hidden in a tree and $300,000 inside a cooler on one of the trucks used to transport the $656 million to Baghdadâ€™s airport Friday night.
On Tuesday, The New York Post reported that four soldiers had been arrested in connection with the attempted theft. The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that the suspects, who were either assigned to guard the cash or load it onto trucks, have not been charged pending further investigation.
The U.S. Army confirmed for NBC News that an official investigation was under way into the allegations. â€œThe Army says it takes these charges very seriously and will work with authorities to get to the bottom of this,â€ an official said.
$1 BILLION WITHDRAWAL REPORTED
In a report that appeared Wednesday, the Times reported that $112 million was found Tuesday. And like the $656 million uncovered Friday in four barricaded cottages in the same neighborhood, the money was stacked neatly inside galvanized aluminum boxes sealed with blue strapping tape and green seals stamped â€œBank of Jordan.â€
The Times also reported that investigators had discovered a withdrawal of $1 billion from the Central Bank of Jordan, leading to speculation that an additional $200 million or more was still hidden in this walled community just east of Saddam Husseinâ€™s Presidential Palace.
U.S. officials who spoke to the newspaper declined to say when the money was withdrawn in Jordan, or by whom.
The abandoned mansions were not seriously damaged by U.S. bombs or pillaged by looters because U.S. soldiers secured the neighborhood just as the battle for Baghdad was ending.
BAATH PARTY RECEIPT
The paper reported that the locks on the kennels bore the signature of Republican Guard Lt. Gen. Muhammed Ibrahim and were dated March 20 â€” the day the U.S. invaded Iraq.
Inside one of the 28 boxes that contained the cash was a slip of paper that read, in Arabic: â€œContents 40,000 one-hundred-dollar bills. By order of Saddam Saddam, this currency is sealed on March 16 in the presence of the following five people.â€ Below were the signatures of five Baath Party ministers.
U.S. officials are already working to determine whether any of the cash discovered in Iraq was counterfeited â€” and have promised to turn over the money to the new Iraqi government.
Tuesdayâ€™s discovery was made by reservists from the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, who had just moved into a nearby mansion and noticed that the fenced-in kennels had been sealed off with cinder blocks, the paper reported.
â€œWe all thought the same thing when we saw it: â€˜It just doesnâ€™t look right,â€™ said Col. Joe Jenkins of Riverside, Calif., a Marine with the brigade.
NBCâ€™s Peter Cook and Carl Rochelle at the Pentagon, The Associated Press contributed to this report.