24 May, 2003
American troops have seized what appears to be US$500 million ($868.35 million) worth of gold bars from a truck in Iraq, the US military said today.
The 2000 40-pound (18 kg) bars were seized yesterday at Qaim on the Syrian border in western Iraq by soldiers of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the US military’s Central Command said in a statement.
It said the bars could be gold and worth as much as $500 million, depending on karat weight and purity.
The Central Command, which headed the US-led invasion of Iraq to depose President Saddam Hussein, said soldiers found the bars while conducting “a routine traffic control search” of a Mercedes truck near the border.
Two occupants of the truck, who were taken into custody, told the soldiers they had been told the bars were bronze, according to the command statement.
The two also told soldiers they had been paid 350,000 Iraqi dinars (about US$350) to pick up the truck in Baghdad and drive it to Qaim and turn it over to an individual.
US troops last month found an estimated $600 million in US cash in boxes near Baghdad palace complexes.
This month, US officials said Saddam’s son Qusay took about a billion dollars in currency from the central bank in Baghdad just before the Iraq war, but that most had been recovered.