As much as $6.6 billion of Bush-era Iraq reconstruction cash remains unaccounted for and may have been stolen, a congressional auditor told the Los Angeles Times.
Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said the missing money could be “the largest theft of funds in national history.”
The government has previously said accounting errors led to its inability to account for the cash, which was flown to Iraq in C-130 Hercules cargo planes. About $2.4 billion in U.S. currency could fit on each cargo plane.
“Congress is not looking forward to having to spend billions of our money to make up for billions of their money that we can’t account for, and can’t seem to find,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the former chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.
The revelation comes days after Rep. Dana Rohrabacher suggested during a Baghdad visit that Iraq’s fledgling government repay the United States for money it spent on the 2003 invasion and post-war reconstruction.
The comment infuriated Iraqi officials and led the Iraqi government to ask the five-term California Republican and his congressional delegation to leave the country.
“We as a government reject such statements, and we have informed the American embassy that these congressmen are not welcome in Iraq,” government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told The Associated Press Sunday.
During the chaos following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government, U.S. officials did not keep tight control over cash being sent to Iraq, with millions of dollars transported in bags and on pickup trucks to Iraqi agencies and contractors, officials told Waxman’s committee.
The Pentagon has long said it could determine what happened to the money if given time, but it has yet to do so. Iraq’s government says the U.S., which controlled the country at the time, is responsible for the funds.
Iraq’s chief auditor, Abdul Basit Turki Saeed, warned U.S. officials that his government will go to court if necessary to recoup the missing money.
“Clearly Iraq has an interest in looking after its assets and protecting them,” Samir Sumaidaie, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States, told the Times.
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