A cargo of about $27 billion has sat unclaimed at a Moscow airport for over half a decade, with allegations circling that it could be the lost fortune of late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or slain Libyan despot Muammar Qaddafi, reported British newspaper the Daily Mail on Sunday.
Now held in a high-security depot, the money is held on 200 wooden pallets, each worth almost $135 million.
Russian customs have issued a demand that the owner of the fortune identify themself.
Money, money, money
Despite numerous bogus attempts to date, no claimant has satisfied the authorities that they are the rightful recipient of the money which would make them richer than Roman Abramovich, one of the top Russian billionaires.
Rumors are spreading that the stash of money belongs to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qaddafi, the toppled Libyan leader.
“It is possible that this is the money of Saddam Hussein,” an anonymous intelligence source told the Russian Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.
The cash was flown to Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow from Frankfurt on Aug. 7, 2007. Strangely, it arrived at the airport without a specified recipient and it has remained frozen there ever since.
“There are other possibilities too,” said an unnamed security source in a recent statement, according to the Mail.
“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.”
Adding a further twist to the tale, reports on Saturday night suggested that the cash was intended for a foundation called “The World of Kind People,” yet its headquarters are Ukrainian and the final destination of the cash was Russia.
Alexander Shipilov, the director of the charity, is one of a number of people who have failed to convince the Russian authorities to hand over the fortune.
Shipilov’s organization is reported to have offered in excess of $2 billion fees to lawyers to win the case, but Moscow's legal experts show no desire to take it on.
Vadim Lyalin, a customs affairs expert, told the Daily Mail that the Russian government has so far not seized the money, adding: “It turns out that there are no reasonable grounds for seizing it [the money].”
“The owner of the cash is named on paper. The cash is real and was transferred from a German bank.”
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.
According to the Daily Mail, the bank that transferred the money in 2007 has been named as Deutsche Bank Group, though this is not confirmed.
Back then, “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.”