WASHINGTON - Lebanon's central bank has located and secured $495 million in Iraqi funds, a Treasury official said at congressional hearings on efforts to trace the billions of dollars that Saddam Hussein is thought to have hidden away.
David Aufhauser, general counsel in the Treasury Department, said the disclosure by Lebanon on Tuesday was a sign of the progress being made in the worldwide search for Hussein's assets.
Aufhauser told the House Financial Services oversight subcommittee that the assets in Lebanon apparently came from Iraq's central bank and other sources.
The United States has stressed that all recovered assets will be used to help the people of Iraq and rebuild the country.
Much of the money was taken by Hussein and his family after the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq after the Persian Gulf war.
Aufhauser said that trying to pin down how much Hussein amassed before being driven from power was "wild-eyed guesstimating."
Estimates run from $2 billion to $40 billion, and it's not known how much of that wealth still exists, he said.
The General Accounting Office, the investigating arm of Congress, has conservatively estimated that Hussein skimmed $6.6 billion in illegal revenue from oil smuggling and kickbacks connected to the U.N. oil-for-food program.