If you ever get homework or a project involving a heist, make sure you consider doing it about the Central Bank of Iraq robbery.
This crime is one of the many random robberies in history. Instead, it is considered the largest bank robbery of all time to this date. Thus, if you don’t know about it, where have you been living all this time?
As you know, robberies aren’t rare. It is rather the opposite. Hence, it is a bit common to lose track of even the largest or most popular ones.
Does this mean we don’t blame you for not knowing more about this in particular? Not really. However, we are fans of reviewing heists and going over the crimes scenes, which you may know already after reading some of our articles.
We don’t have a weak spot for this bank robbery or feel more excited compared to others like the Bizarre Collar Bomb heist. But there’s a lot to learn and review for this one, so we are still more than just happy.
If you’re here, that means you are interested in the heist, and we will be more than happy to share the details with you.
The Perpetrator: Knowing Qusay Hussein
It isn’t strange to know that politicians steal money. Indirectly or directly, they still do. It is very hard (and we dare to say impossible) to find someone who doesn’t do it.
However, we are quite impressed by someone who just decided to steal not only a few bucks, thousands, or even millions, but rather aim for the billion mark. This is exactly the case with the Iraq robbery.
Before we dive into numbers and the other details, or more like in order to do so, we need to go over the man behind the strings.
For starters, we will give you a heads-up about the heist: To steal more than $1 billion in cash, all that was needed was a handwritten letter, 100 metal boxes, and three trucks.
How was it even possible? It helped that one of two men who robbed the bank had the last name ‘Hussein’ and that the Central Bank of Iraq was the institution they were robbing. Here’s when we enter our main topic in the section.
Qusay Hussein was the son of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. He was born on May 16, 1966, and his life was much less publicized than that of his violent older brother Uday Hussein.
Uday, a sociopath, and a criminal, pillaged Iraq for almost three decades. Uday was known for his penchant to kidnap young women from Baghdad. He would take them to his palace and rape their victims.
In addition, he was known for living quite a luxurious life as his palace was home to over 1,200 luxury vehicles, jewelry, and other valuable artifacts.
The Hussein family has come a long way in terms of crimes and how sadistic they are to make people suffer. Thus, Qusay wasn’t the “bread of God.”
Lots of violence and murders are in Qusay’s hands. He is believed to have ordered the assassination of tens and thousands of Shiite Iraqi citizens and political activists during his tenure as head of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
The sad part? There may be even more victims of his acts.
He was also responsible for the irrigation of Iraq’s south marshes. Although it may seem innocent, he actually displaced more than 100,000 Shiites who had been living off the marshland over centuries.
But what did we mean with “was” and not “is”?
The Hussein family’s reign came to an end in 2003 since George W. Bush was leading the US coalition forces to take down forces in Iraq.
The Fall of a Sick “Empire”
We know this is more history than what you expected for a heist we haven’t even started to rebuild for you. However, these details are vital for understanding later.
During George W. Bush, there was a specific event that took place. However, we need to go back to March 2003, when the conflict with the Hussein family started.
The first action taken from Bush to the Husseins is when he declares to the entire world that Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours on March 17.
If they refused to do so, the action would cause military conflict to begin at a time that suited the US. In other words, the attacks would soon start after the time-lapse had finished.
The entire Hussein family could have packed their belongings and moved to any country that would take them in. The Husseins would have been able to move on as wealthy ex-pats with huge bank accounts, mansions, and yachts, staff, cars, jewelry, and harems. All obtained from the corruption and terroristic actions.
They would likely have been allowed to move to Switzerland. However, at the time, only Bahrain had publicly invited them.
After Bush’s press conference, Saddam made his first appearance as a national TV host in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War. He told his generals that war was imminent during the appearance.
After 48 hours, on March 19, Coalition forces launched airstrikes against the Presidential Palace in Baghdad. This was followed the next day with coalition ground troops departing Kuwait to start the invasion of Iraq from Basra Province.
The USA government went through lots of hardships until it was able t officially occupy and secure Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, less than a month after the first airstrikes began. Specifically, on April 9.
How Is the Heist Connected to This Part in History?
During the previous mentions, we skipped the most important part in all this: How the Hussain family took the chance to rob the bank before airstrikes started.
We will be going back on March 17.
At the time of Bush’s announcement, Iraq was a few hours ahead in Baghdad, making it March 18 at the time and when the robbery took place.
Local witnesses reported that “three to four large trucks” pulled up in front of the Central Bank of Iraq’s main branch just over an hour after Bush had finished his announcement.
When the trucks arrived, witnesses saw Qusay and Saddam Hussein’s personal assistant, Abid al-Hamid Mahmood, as part of the team in the trucks and entering the bank.
Inside, Qusay handed a note in Arabic to the bank manager once they had arrived.
The note was signed and written by Saddam and instructed the bank manager to give Qusay $920 million and €90 million. The money was supposed to be given in the right currencies (dollars and euros) instead of the regular currency in Iraq.
In the note, besides requesting the money, Saddam claimed the actions were taken to protect the money from the US militaries and authorities based on the announcement a few hours prior.
Qusay’s armed guards assisted bank employees in loading a constant supply of metal boxes filled with stacks full of $100 bills into the trucks for the next five hours.
After all the money was meticulously accounted for, organized, and placed in a box before being rolled to the truck, they drove off. There was no incident related to violence or any crossfire.
It is considered the largest but also the most peaceful heist of all. Although it was an armed robbery, none of the involved took their weapons out, and although Quay was clearly skipping any form of monetary policy real-life people would respect, no one was hurt.
On another note, Qusay and his accomplice took $1.04 billion in cash out of the bank on that day. This is the most significant bank robbery ever due to the amount only.
Aftermath: The Husseins & Money
After stealing all that money with more than just fake reasons, what happened to it and the family?
The Husseins didn’t get much from the huge cash haul.
Uday and Qusay were both killed in a fight against US forces in the northern city Mosul on July 22, 2003.
It was possible to confront them as the house owner where they were hiding sold the information to the US government to escape from the country.
The owner of the house eventually received $30 million in reward and US citizenship.
Saddam would continue to run until his capture on December 12, 2003, when he was discovered hiding in a farmhouse near Tikrit, his hometown.
He was quickly taken to Baghdad by American troops and was convicted of war crimes and brought to trial in June 2004 to then wait for his sentence as the suspect and party involved in the robbery but many other crimes as well. He was executed on December 30, 2006.
But with all the criminals behind the heist dead, what happens with the cash? That was quite a lot to just go missing.
Well, there’s kind of a happy ending for this.
The money didn’t go very far since the Third Infantry Division of the US Army raided Saddam’s palace outside of Baghdad on April 20, 2003. One of the troops discovered a gap in the wall, which turned out to be false.
He saw many of the metal containers staring back at him from the opposite side of that false wall, and it was when the first part of the money was found.
Six containers were randomly opened. They were shocked to discover that each container had $4 million worth of neatly stacked USD 100 notes.
A total of 164 metal containers was found in the palace after a thorough search, and a great part of the cash was found.
The money was then transported to Baghdad’s airport, where it was kept under strict guard. Finally, the currency was flown to a secret location and counted. After counting every cent, the total was calculated, and people discovered there was a lot still missing.
Only $661.893,800 million were in the containers, and considering $1.04 billion were stolen, there was more money to find.
Eighteen years have passed since the first theft of money from the Central Bank of Iraq. As of today, the rest of the millions haven’t been found and were presumptively spent by the family.
This statement would make sense considering the Husseins were trying to get the most out of the finances, and they did purchase certain properties and items before dying.
However, the story of the heist doesn’t end there.
The Pentagon revealed in January 2012 that it had lost $100 million of $661 million, which was recovered back in 2003.
According to the Department of Defense’s Special Inspection General, $100 million was lost due to “records management errors.”
The “case” for those $100 million hasn’t been solved, and we doubt they are actually investigating it. What do we think? Some people probably bought a new home, even new headquarters could have been financed, and the police could have gotten a buff.
5 Shocking Facts About The Central Bank of Iraq Robbery
- The sum of money stolen was a full quarter of the country’s currency reserves.
- Some of the money stolen is considered to have been used by the Hussein family to finance its weapons and resistance against US troops.
- Before Saddam was executed, he said, “Allahu Akbar. The Muslim Ummah will be victorious, and Palestine is Arab!” Pretty crazy guy.
- The aftermath of the fall of the Hussein’s involves giving the ownership of the Iraqi’s palaces they owned to the government.
- In addition (and including) to the heist’s money, the Husseins had about $1.5 billion in cash for themselves at the time.
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