NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Federal customs agents seized a Mercedes-Benz on Thursday from an Army reservist who said the armor-plated, bulletproofed luxury car likely belonged to Saddam Hussein.
First Sgt. William von Zehle said he bought the car while serving in Iraq. U.S. Immigration and Customs enforcement agents said the car, which was also equipped with loudspeakers and hidden microphones, was being treated as a "possible war trophy."
"It belonged to the former Iraqi regime," ICE spokesman Dean Boyd said.
He said investigators were unsure whether the former Iraqi dictator actually owned it.
Von Zehle, of Ridgefield, was quoted in news stories last summer as saying he bought the car for about $5,000 in 2003 while serving in Baghdad with the Danbury-based 411th Civil Affairs Battalion.
"I can't prove it, but yeah, this was Saddam Hussein's car," he said this summer.
A message left at von Zehle's home Friday was not immediately returned.
Federal agents were holding the car while investigating possible violations of federal smuggling laws, as well as an executive order barring the importation of property from the former Iraqi regime.
Von Zehle was not charged with a crime. Customs officials did not immediately say what will happen to the car.
The white Mercedes was also equipped with a series of pipes that shoot flames out the side of the car, von Zehle has said.
The case is being investigated by customs agents and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.