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US: Whoops, Nevermind About That Whole "Lost $6.6B of Iraqi Rebuilding Cash" Thing

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A common charge leveled against the Bush administration in the months following the 2003 invasion of Iraq was its supreme lack of a follow-up plan once Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled. Shocked and awed was the American public when it learned that $6.6 billion in cold hard cash, delivered by the planeload to Iraq to assist in reconstruction efforts, was somehow lost.

In what US officials called the biggest international cash airlift of all time, over 20 C-130 Hercules cargo planes, packed with shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills for a total of $12 billion, were sent to Baghdad from the United States. More than half of that money went missing in the chaos and looting during the invasion’s aftermath. Or so it was thought.

Mind you, this wasn’t US taxpayer money. It was Iraqi oil revenue and other seized assets frozen by international sanctions, entrusted to the US by the UN and stored at the Federal Reserve in New York for the Development Fund for Iraq.

For eight years, blame was cast by both the US and Iraq at the other for losing that money. US officials accused the interim government of fraud while a high-ranking Iraqi official said the US “failed to put in place accountable and transparent financial controls to safeguard Iraqi funds.” Pentagon investigations and Congressional hearings were opened to try solve the matter.

In June of this year, federal auditors finally concluded that all of that cash may have been stolen in what Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, dubbed "the largest theft of funds in national history."

Now, in a turn of events fit for a Scooby Doo mystery, officials have learned that the money was where it was supposed to be all along. A new report from that same Inspector Bowen says it was never lost in the first place but legitimately handed over to the proper authorities.

"Sufficient evidence exists showing that almost all of the remaining $6.6 billion remaining was transferred to actual and legal CBI (Central Bank of Iraq) control," claims the report. A smaller sum of $217 million was in one of Saddam’s vaults being overseen by the US Defense Department.

At least they didn’t say they found it all under a mattress.
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