- 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
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.
‘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.
‘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.’
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.’