Published: Tuesday, 21 Jun 2011 | 7:30 PM ET
By: Eamon Javers
CNBC Washington, DC Correspondent
The New York Fed is refusing to tell investigators how many billions of dollars it shipped to Iraq during the early days of the US invasion there, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction told CNBC Tuesday.
The Fed's lack of disclosure is making it difficult for the inspector general to follow the paper trail of billions of dollars that went missing in the chaotic rush to finance the Iraq occupation, and to determine how much of that money was stolen. The New York Fed will not reveal details, the inspector general said, because the money initially came from an account at the Fed that was held on behalf of the people of Iraq and financed by cash from the Oil-for-Food program. Without authorization from the account holder, the Iraqi government itself, the inspector general's office was told it can't receive information about the account.
The problem is that critics of the Iraqi government believe highly placed officials there are among the people who may have made off with the money in the first place.
And some think that will make it highly unlikely the Iraqis will sign off on revealing the total dollar amount.
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NY Fed's $40 Billion Iraqi Money Trail - CNBC Aricle (Part 2)
The enormous undertaking of moving the billions began in the heavily guarded Federal Reserve compound on 100 Orchard Street in East Rutherford, NJ. There, carefully screened employees loaded pallets of cash into tractor-trailers for their journey down I-95 toward Washington, DC. The money came from an account held at the New York Fed called the “Development Fund for Iraq” which was made up of billions of dollars in Saddam Hussein’s financial assets that had been frozen under various US and global sanctions regimes. They weren’t taxpayer dollars, but the US government was responsible for making sure they got where they were going.
Source: CNBC Sources
A typical pallet held 640 bundles, which the handlers called “bricks,” with a thousand bills in each bundle. Each pallet weighed 1,500 pounds, and they were separated by color. Gold seals were used for $100 bills, brown seals held $50 bills, purple seals $20, and so on. The operation was handled with the utmost secrecy—just imagine what could have happened if the mafia found out which trucks held the money. The chain of custody of the cash was rigorously documented as it left the custody of the New York Fed and was signed over to Air Force officers, who oversaw the loading of C-17 transport planes and flew with the bales of money on the long flight to Baghdad. When the cargo holds were unloaded in Baghdad, Basel was there. But his presence on the receiving end of the largest airborne currency transfer in history began almost entirely by accident.
As a fluent speaker of multiple Arabic dialects, Basel had come to Iraq as a civilian with the American military. Both he and his former boss say Basel was sitting in a waiting area in Saddam Hussein’s palace in early 2003, waiting for his first assignment. While he was waiting, a US Treasury official burst into the room, looking for a translator.
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NY Fed's $40 Billion Iraqi Money Trail
Published: Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011 | 2:25 PM ET
By: Eamon Javers
CNBC Washington, DC Correspondentsee VIDEO Post
Source: CNBC Sources
It has been called the largest airborne transfer of currency in the history of the world. But finding out what happened to all the money involved has become one of the biggest financial mysteries of all time.
Beginning in the very earliest days of the war in Iraq, the New York Federal Reserve shipped billions of dollars in physical cash to Baghdad to pay for the reopening of the government and restoration of basic services. The money was packed onto pallets inside a heavily guarded New York Federal Reserve compound in East Rutherford, New Jersey, trucked to Andrews Air Force Base outside of Washington, and flown by military aircraft to Baghdad International Airport.
By one account, the New York Fed shipped about $40 billion in cash between 2003 and 2008. In just the first two years, the shipments included more than 281 million individual bills weighing a total of 363 tons. But soon after the money arrived in the chaos of war-torn Baghdad, the paper trail documenting who controlled it all began to go cold.
Since then, investigators have spent years trying to trace what happened to the enormous amount of money shipped in the frantic days of the occupation of Iraq. Although there have been hundreds of pages of reports, Congressional hearings, and inquiries from Washington to Baghdad, no one in Congress, a special inspector general’s office, the Department of Defense or the Iraqi government itself can say with certainty what exactly happened to all of that money.
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