$252 million stolen in Baghdad bank robbery
July 13, 2007
Guards of a bank in downtown Baghdad allegedly robbed it of $282 million in American currency and escaped into the city with one the largest hauls in history, Iraqi officials said Thursday.
Interior Ministry officials said that two or three guards were involved in robbing the Dar El Salaam Bank in the Sa’adun district in central Baghdad. Officials confirmed that the money was in American dollars and not Iraqi dinars.
Another report, unconfirmed by government officials, said the robbers also made off with some $150,000 worth of Iraqi currency.
Iraqi security officials are investigating the crime, but early speculation is that because the robbers were able to get through the various checkpoints in Baghdad, they were tied to militias or rogue security forces. The guards reportedly slept in the bank as part of their regular duties but have not been seen since the robbery.
It was unclear why so much cash — much more than usual — was on hand, officials said. The robbery was discovered when employees showed up in the morning, found the doors unlocked and the vaults empty.
The heist would be the second largest in Iraqi history, and one of the largest on record anywhere.
In March 2003, just hours before the U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq began, Saddam Hussein and members of his family took an estimated $1 billion in cash from Iraq’s Central Bank.
In that incident, Hussein’s sons and other high-ranking government officials essentially abducted bank managers, forced them to open vaults, and then drove off with the money in three trucks.
At various times throughout the war, military officials have announced the finding and seizure of huge amounts of cash and gold. Much of the money has been tied to financing the insurgency.
The robbing of banks to fund militant organizations is not new. Irish Republican Army gunmen are alleged to have stolen millions from Irish and British banks, and in 1976, the Palestinian Liberation Organization robbed some $600 million in cash and other valuables from a British bank in Lebanon.