Monday, January 19, 2004

Saddam: 2 billion stashed

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Saddam has 2 billion dollars stashed away in Syrian and Lebanese banks:

Syria's Central Bank and the Medina Bank in Lebanon are holding at least $2 billion in cash, as well as gold bullion and platinum, that was smuggled out of Iraq, according to a letter written on the stationery of the Syrian army's intelligence department.

The letter says $1.3 billion was deposited in the Syrian Central Bank in an official "presidency" account, while another $700 million was placed in the Medina Bank. The document does not state the value of the gold and platinum, although it says these are also in the Syrian Central Bank.

The handwritten letter to a Syrian exile in Europe, which also bears what appears to be the official stamp of the Syrian army intelligence department, says the deal was struck not long before a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq early last year.

The document was sent to Nizar Nayouf, an exiled Syrian human-rights activist and past winner of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's World Press Freedom Prize who is living in Paris.

While the claims in the letter could not be further verified, Mr. Nayouf, a journalist and democracy activist who was released from a Syrian prison in May 2001, said past information provided by the same person had proved reliable.


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