Airmen find ‘old’ Iraqi money stashed near Baghdad airport
February 1, 2006
It wasn’t quite the stash of gold sought by soldiers in the Gulf War movie “Three Kings,” but an Air Force security patrol found itself face to face with about 45 million Iraqi dinars near the U.S. base at Baghdad International Airport just over a week ago.
Airmen from the 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron were patrolling near the perimeter of Sather Air Base when a Humvee gunner saw a wad of bills buried off the side of the road. The airmen, Staff Sgt. Stephen Hunter, and his team stopped the patrol and discovered a large bundle of bills wrapped in twine; a further search of the area turned up a host of burlap bags stuffed with dinars.
“We saw Saddam’s face on the money and knew at that point it was not worth anything,” Hunter said.
The bills were “old” Iraqi dinars, which were phased out after the invasion. Though still sought as a collector’s item, they’re virtually worthless now. The bills found by the airmen included some produced in the 1990s and as new as 2002.
The new Iraqi dinar was introduced on Oct. 15, 2003, and was exchanged at a one-to-one rate with the old dinar up through Jan. 15, 2004. It’s tough to find an official conversion rate for Iraqi dinars, whether old or new. But various Internet currency speculators offer such deals as $50 for 25,000 dinars and $770 for one million dinars.
Nevertheless, the airmen turned the money over to agents from the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations. Those agents determined — to use an old saying — that the money wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
“We were more interested in booby traps or potential supporting documents that might have been with the money,” Special Agent Doug Biel was quoted as saying in an Air Force news release.
Because nothing else was found with the money, “there was no further intel value we could use.”
So, some of the money ended up stuffed in a storage locker. A few bills were kept by airmen as souvenirs. The whole find had been stacks of 100-dinar and 250-dinar bills wrapped in rubber bands and splattered with mud. Similar cash stashes had been found before at the base, officials said.