Is Saddam Hussein’s fortune in a warehouse in Moscow? Mystery over £16.75bn piles of cash left at airport for six years

  • Cash in 100 euro notes is stored on  wooden pallets
  • Each of the 200 pallets is worth  100million euros
  • Money was sent to Moscow from Frankfurt  in 2007
  • Documents show the sender was a  45-year-old Iranian
  • No recipient listed but sources say it  could belong to Saddam Hussein
  • Other theories are that it belonged to  Colonel Gaddafi, a Mafia operation linked to the state, or corrupt  officials
  • Unsuccessful attempts have been made to  claim the fortune that would make the owner richer than Roman  Abramovich

By  Will Stewart

PUBLISHED: 07:05 EST, 29  September 2013 |  UPDATED: 07:16 EST, 29 September 2013

A cargo of 20billion euros in cash  (£16.75billion) has lain unclaimed at a Moscow airport for six years amid  allegations it could be the secret fortune of Saddam Hussein.

The stash, now under high security in a cargo depot, is held on 200 wooden pallets each worth 100 million euros, enough to keep the entire NHS going for almost two months.

Russian customs have demanded the real owner  of the booty “presents himself” to claim the fortune, but while a number of  bogus and unconvincing attempts have been made to obtain it, no-one has  satisfied the authorities that they are the rightful recipient.

Under armed guard at Sheremetyevo airport in Russia there is £16.75bn in cash stored on wooden pallets 

Under armed guard at Sheremetyevo airport in Russia  there is £16.75bn in cash stored on wooden pallets


‘It is possible that this is the money of  Saddam Hussein,’ an anonymous intelligence source told Moskovsky Komsomolets  newspaper.

The cash mountain, all in 100 euro notes, was  flown to Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow from Frankfurt on 7 August 2007 and it  has remained frozen there ever since.

Russian sources say the authorities have  failed to untangle the identity of the ultimate owner of the money, which –  strangely – arrived at the airport without a specified recipient on the  consignment.

Why Saddam’s ill-gotten nest egg would have  been sent from Germany to Russia four years after he was toppled, and eight  months after his execution, is unclear, but this is not the only theory about  the money’s origin.

It is claimed that the Iraqi tyrant had  shifted £7.5 billion to Moscow in diplomatic bags before he was ousted, yet this  was far short of the full wealth he had amassed.

Documents show Farzin Motlagh as the sender of the money but he has not come to claim the cash 

Documents show Farzin Motlagh as the sender of the money  but he has not come to claim the cash


One security source has said the the huge pile of notes could have belonged to Saddam HusseinOthers theorise that the money could have belonged to ex-Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi

Dead dictators: theories suggest the money could have  actually belonged to either Saddam Hussein (left), former ruler of Iraq, or  Colonel Gaddafi, who was shot following the Libyan uprising


‘There are other possibilities too,’ said a  security source last night. Saddam was not the only dictator who funnelled away  a fortune: what about Muammar Gaddafi?

‘Another explanation is that this is Russian  mafia money or the fortune of corrupt Russian officials but that has  become  too dangerous for anyone to claim. It is a gargantuan  sum.’

The waybill, while not naming a recipient,  suggested the owner was 45-year-old Farzin Koroorian Motlagh.

His passport details show him to be Iranian,  but Russian customs and other agencies appear far from convinced that he is the  ultimate owner. Nor has he appeared in Moscow to claim the loot.

Reports last night suggested that the cash  was intended for an obscure foundation called The World of Kind People, yet its  headquarters are Ukrainian and the final destination of the cash was  Russia.

It’s boss, called Alexander Shipilov, 53, is  one of a number of people who have failed to convince the authorities to hand  him cash that would make him wealthier than Roman Abramovich, who is worth £9  billion.

His charitable organisation is reported to  have offered a two billion euro fee to lawyers to win the case, but Moscow’s  legal experts show no desire to take it on.

Vadim Lyalin, a customs affairs expert, said:  ‘The shipper didn’t specify a recipient. This is rather odd. It suggests that  something is wrong with the cash.

‘Surely someone would have claimed the cargo  from the very beginning. It remains unknown who exactly did so.

‘Probably, there was a certain plan how this  cash was supposed to cross the Russian border since no-one with any  sense  would send such money to “nowhere”.

‘Something must have gone wrong, and “Mr X”  failed to receive the cargo. After a number of failed attempts to collect the  cash, it was decided to act via a foundation.

‘This is a common money laundering  practice.’

Whoever manages to convince Russian authorities the money is theirs will be worth more than Roman Abramovich 

Whoever manages to convince Russian authorities the  money is theirs will be worth more than Roman Abramovich


The Russian government has so far not seized  the money. Lyalin added: ‘It turns out that there are no reasonable grounds for  seizing it.

‘The owner of the cash is named on paper. The  cash is real and was transferred from a German bank.’

The bank has been named as Deutsche Bank  Group, though this is not confirmed.

‘Customs demanded the owner of the cargo to  appear in person,’ said Lyalin.  ‘The authorities had to make sure that the  owner was alive and is not a fake.’

Motlagh (also known as Farzin Ali Karoryan  Mutlaq) – who in 2010 was accused of being the “mastermind” of an attempt to  steal $14billion from the Central Bank of Abu Dhabi using false documents – has  not appeared in Moscow to stake his claim.

He was reported to have avoided trial in the  United Arab Emirates by fleeing to Iran.

It is unclear if  there is any link  between the Abu Dhabi and Moscow cases, but in any event the Russians have  rejected his attempts to use intermediaries to claim the cash.

One source familiar with the situation said  that a dozen groups have sought to claim the cash, all claiming to have  Motlagh’s authority.

‘They include criminals, Chechen groups,  and  Ukrainian gangsters,’ said the source.

The security source claimed that Motlagh was  a likely ‘front man who lost control of a fortune he was nursing on behalf of  shady interests related to a wicked dictator, corrupt senior officials, or a  huge mafia operation linked to a state. We may never know to whom it  belongs.’

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    Is Saddam Hussein’s fortune in a warehouse in Moscow? Mystery over £16.75bn piles of cash left at airport for six years


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