The Los Angeles Times reports that theft has not been ruled out by auditors trying to trace $6.6 billion [7.9 trillion Iraqi dinars] of missing cash.
A total of $12 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills was flown to Iraq in 2003 and 2004 to pay for public services, contractors, and general reconstruction. More than half of that cash in unaccounted for.
Now 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 money came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations' oil-for-food program.
Iraqi officials argue that the U.S. 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 U.S. 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.
(Source: Los Angeles Times)