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Paul Richter reports: "For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be 'the largest theft of funds in national history.'"

Rep. Henry A. Waxman held hearings on waste and fraud in Iraq when he headed the House Government Reform Committee. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Rep. Henry A. Waxman held hearings on waste and fraud in Iraq when he headed the House Government Reform Committee. (photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)



Missing Iraq Money May Have Been Stolen

By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times

13 June 11

 

US Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion, sent by the planeload in cash and intended for Iraq's reconstruction after the start of the war.

fter the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the George W. Bush administration flooded the conquered country with so much cash to pay for reconstruction and other projects in the first year that a new unit of measurement was born.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that US officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, US Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash - enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."

The mystery is a growing embarrassment to the Pentagon, and an irritant to Washington's relations with Baghdad. Iraqi officials are threatening to go to court to reclaim the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations' oil-for-food program.

It's fair to say that Congress, which has already shelled out $61 billion of US taxpayer money for similar reconstruction and development projects in Iraq, is none too thrilled either.

"Congress is not looking forward to having to spend billions of our money to make up for billions of their money that we can't account for, and can't seem to find," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who presided over hearings on waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq six years ago when he headed the House Government Reform Committee.

Theft of such a staggering sum might seem unlikely, but US officials aren't ruling it out. Some US contractors were accused of siphoning off tens of millions in kickbacks and graft during the post-invasion period, especially in its chaotic early days. But Iraqi officials were viewed as prime offenders.

The US cash airlift was a desperation measure, organized when the Bush administration was eager to restore government services and a shattered economy to give Iraqis confidence that the new order would be a drastic improvement on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The White House decided to use the money in the so-called Development Fund for Iraq, which was created by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to hold money amassed during the years when Hussein's regime was under crippling economic and trade sanctions.

The cash was carried by tractor-trailer trucks from the fortress-like Federal Reserve currency repository in East Rutherford, NJ, to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, then flown to Baghdad. US officials there stored the hoard in a basement vault at one of Hussein's former palaces, and at US military bases, and eventually distributed the money to Iraqi ministries and contractors.

But US officials often didn't have time or staff to keep strict financial controls. Millions of dollars were stuffed in gunnysacks and hauled on pickups to Iraqi agencies or contractors, officials have testified.

House Government Reform Committee investigators charged in 2005 that US officials "used virtually no financial controls to account for these enormous cash withdrawals once they arrived in Iraq, and there is evidence of substantial waste, fraud and abuse in the actual spending and disbursement of the Iraqi funds."

Pentagon officials have contended for the last six years that they could account for the money if given enough time to track down the records. But repeated attempts to find the documentation, or better yet the cash, were fruitless.

Iraqi officials argue that the US government was supposed to safeguard the stash under a 2004 legal agreement it signed with Iraq. That makes Washington responsible, they say.

Abdul Basit Turki Saeed, Iraq's chief auditor and president of the Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, has warned US officials that his government will go to court if necessary to recoup the missing money.

"Clearly Iraq has an interest in looking after its assets and protecting them," said Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq's ambassador to the United States.

 

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+43 # ContinuallyAmazed 2011-06-13 09:42
Doesn't the government know about Traveler's Checks? Debit cards? Sending a giant airplane full of cash is really stupid guys. And so who pays for this? Not the idiots who set this up,not the filthy rich who can afford it, but the seniors who will be taxed on their pensions, the sick who will have their medicare cut to and kids in schools that have fewer teachers all to 'balance the budget' because the Pentagon was irresponsible with their money. Disgraceful!!!
 
 
+10 # doneasley 2011-06-13 16:45
"CONTINUALLY AMAZED", I too am continually amazed! There's an actual picture of the pallets of cash - CASH MIND YOU! - that were flown to Iraq in just one of the many stupid moves by the Bush administration. Follow this link to check it out:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/feb/08/usa.iraq1

Not mentioned in this article is the guardian of this windfall, L. Paul Bremer, the chief civilian administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the U.S.-appointed organization charged with overseeing Iraq's reconstruction. Bush later awarded Bremer the Medal Of Freedom, along with General Franks and George Tenet.

Bremer did appear before Congress in a softball "debriefing" session. He has since disappeared into the gloaming along with many of the other villains of the Bush administration (Can you say Wolfowitz?).

I'd love to see the off-shore bank accounts of Bremer and his cohorts. The beleaguered American taxpayer takes it on the chin again. Obscene!!!
 
 
+7 # Sukumar 2011-06-13 19:06
Find me the Iraqi warlord/Baathis t turncoat/Irania n spy/corrupt cop/politician or jihadist who accepts traveler's checks or debit cards. Do you not get it that this money was NEVER, EVER intended for any honest or legitimate purpose?
 
 
+7 # Wellington 2011-06-14 20:31
Excuse me, but this is incorrect,
You said "Pentagon was irresponsible with their money".
It's not "their money", it's ,in fact. people's money.
And all operation dont result in a incident that may atract a "lack of confidence" on Government, but all that heavy stinks and must be considered as a criminal violation to security of people's wealth.
All politicians that ordered that operation must be hard punished...
All of them must be jailed and their own money must be used to repair losses...
 
 
+30 # Gordon K 2011-06-13 10:51
The Pentagon wasn't irresponsible, in the sense of incompetence. The untraceable nature of this "funds transfer" was undoubtedly the point.
 
 
+19 # in deo veritas 2011-06-13 12:42
The pentagram is criminally responsible for being as much a part of the entire Iraq debacle as the Bush crime family. Someone has to be held responsible for this-not the people aleady being victimized by Wall Street and its minions in Congress and the pentagram (not misspelled-just what it symbolizes.
 
 
+19 # in deo veritas 2011-06-13 12:45
This is just more reason why everyone associated with the Bush crime family should be arrested and turned over to the World Court. They do not deserve a dollar of our money being spent to try them in this country-if in fact they even deserve a trial anywhere.
 
 
+33 # jtc 2011-06-13 11:09
To anyone who served in the Green Zone in the early years of Bush's war, this conclusion comes as no surprise--only overdue.
 
 
+18 # billybookworm 2011-06-13 11:49
Do the words "courier bag" sound familiar? Imagine a pick up truck filled with large black duffel bags crammed with money going out to make payments to contractors. Who is going to miss a dozen bags here and there.
 
 
+23 # Observer 47 2011-06-13 11:48
Yeah, the funds were stolen, all right. No question whatsoever about that. Bet all those bricks of Benjamins went right into the pockets of Halliburton, Blackwater, and every other Bush/Cheney crony with a presence in Iraq. As Gordon K says, the money was deliberately untraceable. Why else would cash be sent????
 
 
+23 # boudreaux 2011-06-13 11:54
I am so blown away that the pentagon ordered this money to be shipped over there and then said they didn't have the time or staff to keep strict financial controls over it..WTF 6.6 billion dollars of our money being so covered up by someone and I have a feeling that it was us this time.
Just another Bush cover up.
Pentagon officials have contended for the last six years that they could account for the money if given enough time to track down the records. But repeated attempts to find the documentation, or better yet the cash, were fruitless. What are they doing, sitting with their thumbs up their asses. This is one that really needs to be investigated until the money is accounted for....it's our money!!!
 
 
+10 # Corazone 2011-06-13 12:51
It was more than obvious at the time this 'loss' was originally reported in the news that it was either stolen or intentionally paid out in the form of incentives, bribes or funding for off-the-books 'contractors'. I don't see why this is news now or what the point of bringing it up again unless the DoJ is going to prosecute individuals involved.
 
 
+8 # Sukumar 2011-06-13 19:10
Don't be silly! DoJ only prosecutes whistle-blowers .
 
 
+12 # Susan W 2011-06-13 13:45
It took them this long to figure it out? What nincompoop couldn't have known it was stolen from the beginning. Really, a literal pile of cash goes missing and it takes all these investigations to conclude that people just walked away with it. And how much did all the investigating over the years cost the taxpayers?
 
 
+16 # rm 2011-06-13 13:47
L. Paul Bremmer is responsible. He should be charged with theft. He was solely responsible for running affairs in Iraq when the money vanished. This should be an open and shut case. If Bremmer says he knows nothing about it, that is his responsibilty, too. He was in charge.

I'd say Bremmer should occupy a cell for life right beside Bernie Madoff.

This kind of theft happens in war all the time because no one is held responsible. I have a friend to stole $2 million when he was in Vietnam. He set himself up for life. It was easy he said. Nothing changes, except that the dollar amounts get really bigger.
 
 
+4 # Dave_s Not Here 2011-06-13 14:01
Stolen? Nah. It was "gifted" to anyone over there who could get close enough to snatch some. Motive? to stuff the pockets and bank accounts of the American's sycophants, fellow travelers and hangers-on. The cash is long gone and there is no possibility of recovery. Any further attention paid to it is just make work and to no avail.
 
 
+11 # Don R. 2011-06-13 14:31
The Iraq adventure architects need to be identified and sent to Guantanamo where THEY belong.
 
 
+2 # louise125 2011-06-13 15:17
What a cl****r-f*** from sea to shining stern.
 
 
+3 # head out the window 2011-06-13 18:20
hey were giving them paper money that we printed for assets we stold, which is why we started the war in the first polace.
 
 
+2 # Margaret Morris 2011-06-13 18:49
The rush of whistle blowing books circa 2006 from those who were on the ground in Iraq suggests the question-- why is this a surprise? It's already public domain in terms of information.

I picked it up on alternative media back then and again oddly enough in the acknowledgment bibliography of a John Lescroart thriller "Betrayal," which uses the untraceable cash as a plot device.

It's a good novel. Glad something good came from the loss.
 
 
+5 # Sallyport 2011-06-13 20:31
Surely somewhere there is a list of the serial numbers of the bills!
 
 
+5 # Joe Vitovec 2011-06-14 00:48
Since this was the Pentagon's 'mistake,' the thing to do should be taking the equal amount out of the Defense budget and transferring it to the US Treasury as compensation for the loss. Concurrently, the investigation should continue to see who should be charged and punished as per the appropriate law.
 
 
+4 # rm 2011-06-14 10:09
If you want to know where a lot of this money went, check out the documentary "Afghanistan: On the Dollar Trail." There's a large section of Kabul called "Dollarstan." It is filled with mansions that make Beverly Hills look cheap. The owners of the mansions ride in Mercedes SUVs followed by armed caravans. The US is creating in Afghanistan a gangster nation, as it always does everywhere it takes control. The terms "democracy" and "rebuilding" are sick jokes.

Here's the trailer -- http://www.viddler.com/explore/cij/videos/28/
 
 
+2 # geraldom 2011-06-14 12:49
Anyone that is interested, I refer you to the following URL link:

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/dispatches-iraqs-missing-billions/

This is not fresh news. It's only fresh to people who have never heard of it. The above link will take you to a website where you will be able to play & watch, free, an unabridged complete version of a documentary titled "Iraq's Missing Billions." This came out in 2006 & was aired many times on FSTV. I recorded it multiple times on my DVD burner, but if you wish to watch it, just go to the above referenced site.

If you have the latest version of Real Play, it would be better for you to download the video as a .FLV file to your hard-drive first so you can watch it at your leisure. Real Player allows you to do this. It is a large file. You can then watch the film using Windows Media Player, but I would suggest that you download & install the latest version of Media Player Classic. The quality of the video may not be the best played full screen, but it will suffice.

This is an amazing & unbelievable video to watch when you see how they handled the billions of dollars in actual real cash & how they ultimately protected it, which was a complete joke. I would tell you to enjoy it, but it will probably get you angry as to how the money was spent & how it disappeared. Enjoy anyway.
 
 
+2 # signalfire 2011-06-14 14:43
And how much did Rumsfeld announce was 'missing' from the Pentagon budget on September 10, 2001?

Hey, what's a few billions between friends? You guys take this all so seriously. It's all counterfeit anyway, just ask Bennie the Bernacke.
 
 
+3 # dwkuehn 2011-06-15 13:48
What about that $2.3 TRILLION that Rumsfeld couldn't account for in that speech on September 10th, 2001?
 
 
+3 # angryspittle 2011-06-15 14:44
How about a great big collective fucking "DUH"!!
 
 
+3 # mtyboltar 2011-06-15 17:36
My first reaction to this headline: "NO SHIT SHERLOCK!"
 
 
+3 # shea brown 2011-06-16 02:30
The invasion of Iraq happened because Saddam was already going to ask for Euros instead of dollars for oil. The invasion was to prop up the value of our dollar. Even stolen dollars at play and circulating in the world keep that value up,, so,,mission accomplished again ! Even stolen dollars at play in that part of the world encourage that money instrument to be considered valuable and useful. As shameless and wasteful as that seems, it does seem to be the logic of the Bush team planners.
 
 
0 # Jemel Wright 2011-07-20 06:33
I have pictures from the time of all this money but know where to post on here. I can see all that money in a picture and had a few dealings with the people that apparently stole it. So i personally know a little more on this subject than what they would be saying in the news. The only form of factual evidence that proves what i said is the pictures, i was waiting for a matter of time before this was put in the news. I say this the federal government and people higher up (much to my disbelief in a world where i believe we are all equal) already knew about this, Yes got evidence once again to everything i have said here. Jemel
 

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