Four American soldiers have been arrested for trying to steal nearly US$1 million found hidden in former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's Baghdad palaces, it was reported Wednesday.
Three are accused of taking US$600,000 in US$100 bills and hiding them in a tree, while the fourth allegedly took US$300,000 and stashed it in several places, including the glove compartment of his truck.
Jonathan Foreman, a New York Post reporter with the 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment, in Baghdad, quoted Major Kent Rideout saying that the men would be court martialled.
The arrests were made after troops found US$656 million hidden behind breeze blocks in a district near the Tigris river last week. A further US$112 million was found this week.
Brigadier General Vincent Brooks said at central command in Qatar that efforts would be made to discover whether the cash was genuine.
If it was, it would be returned to the Iraqi people. The cash, thought to have been abandoned by Baath party officials and Republican Guard officers when they fled the capital, has been moved to the international airport for safe keeping.
Officers discovered that some had been stolen after realizing that one of the 37 strongboxes they found -- each containing US$4 million -- had been opened without authorization.
"You can understand how the greed took over, when just one wad of this cash can pay off your mortgage, send your kids to school, etc," the Post quoted an officer as saying.
The parallel with the David Russell film Three Kings, in which three US soldiers try to steal suitcases full of gold bullion taken by Iraq from Kuwait at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, did not go unremarked.
The Pentagon and the military authorities in Qatar and Kuwait said they were trying to confirm the arrests.