BAGHDAD – U.S. soldiers found $112 million in U.S. currency sealed inside seven dog kennels in a wealthy Baghdad neighborhood of mansions and rose gardens where top Baath Party and Republican Guard officials once lived, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the cash found Tuesday — like the $656 million uncovered Friday in four barricaded cottages in the same neighborhood — was stacked neatly inside galvanized aluminum boxes sealed with blue strapping tape and green seals stamped "Bank of Jordan."
The Times also reported that investigators had discovered a withdrawal of $1 billion from the Central Bank of Jordan, leading to speculation that an additional $200 million or more was still hidden in this walled community just east of Saddam Hussein's Presidential Palace.
U.S. officials who spoke to the newspaper declined to say when the money was withdrawn in Jordan, or by whom.
The abandoned mansions were not seriously damaged by U.S. bombs or pillaged by looters because U.S. soldiers secured the neighborhood just as the battle for Baghdad was ending.
The paper reported that the locks on the kennels bore the signature of Republican Guard Lt. Gen. Muhammed Ibrahim and were dated March 20 — the day the U.S. invaded Iraq.
Inside one of the 28 boxes that contained the cash was a slip of paper that read, in Arabic: "Contents 40,000 one-hundred-dollar bills. By order of Saddam Saddam, this currency is sealed on March 16 in the presence of the following five people." Below were the signatures of five Baath Party ministers.
U.S. officials are already working to determine whether any of the cash discovered in Iraq was counterfeited — and have promised to turn over the money to the new Iraqi government.
Tuesday's discovery was made by reservists from the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, who had just moved into a nearby mansion and noticed that the fenced-in kennels had been sealed off with cinder blocks, the paper reported.
"We all thought the same thing when we saw it: 'It just doesn't look right,'" said Col. Joe Jenkins of Riverside, Calif., a Marine with the brigade.
In a related development, investigators from the Army's Criminal Investigation Division have sealed off the area and were questioning six American soldiers about an undisclosed amount of missing cash, the newspaper reported.
The six soldiers, all from the Third Infantry Division, included four already under investigation for $900,000 stolen and recovered Friday from the cash in the cottages. Of that amount, $600,000 was found hidden in a tree and $300,000 inside a cooler on one of the trucks used to transport the $656 million to Baghdad's airport Friday night.
On Tuesday, The New York Post reported that four soldiers had been arrested in connection with the attempted theft. The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that the suspects, who were either assigned to guard the cash or load it onto trucks, have not been charged pending further investigation.