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Saddam’s Half-Brother Barzan Al-Tikriti Captured

From DEBKAfile War Diary - Day 29, April 17, 2003

April 20, 2003, 12:28 AM (GMT+02:00)

Barzan Ibrahim Al-Tikriti, one of Saddam’s three half brothers, was very much alive when American forces picked him up Thursday, April 17, despite the reports of his death in a coalition air raid of his home in Tikrit north of Baghdad last week. He had simply moved to another palatial residence, making no effort to join the hundreds of his fellow insiders in the Saddam regime, who fled to Damascus.

In addition to his Tikrit homes, the well-heeled Barzan maintained a villa at the Salman Pak bio-weapons, terrorist training camp south of Baghdad opposite that of the president. Both were found unoccupied and stripped of contents by American forces when they entered the facility two weeks ago. Saddam’s half-brother also owns a mansion on the shores of Lake Geneva, to which he traveled on March 5 two weeks before the US invasion.

Up until 1995, Barzan handled Saddam’s personal fortune, estimated at $5-6 billion and deriving mainly from smuggled oil sales, as well as his personal investments. He was also in charge of foreign intelligence. It was Barzan who devised Iraq’s sanction-busting tactics to circumvent the food-for-oil limits the UN placed on Iraq’s oil sales. But then, in the mid-1990s, Saddam removed control of his assets from his half-brother, having decided that no one in Iraq, including his nearest kin, would be privy to the most sensitive source of his power, his funding. The Iraqi ruler replaced him with a widely-distributed network of overseas foreign brokers, each with charge of a small part of his investments. He kept them all on a tight leash by threats.

The deposed ruler’s assets are now believed by DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources to be scattered around thousands of straw companies registered in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as criminal tycoons in Belarus and the Ukraine. Some investments may be located in Austria. There is no confirmation of reports that al Qaeda has accessed Saddam’s secret stash.

Much of the financial information Barzan can offer his American interrogators may therefore be out of date, like his knowledge of the whereabouts of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. His importance lies in his status as an insider of the overthrown Saddam regime, prominent on the card deck of 55 most wanted Iraqis and familiar with its inner workings.

So far, only five are dead or in custody. American forces have posted huge financial rewards – up to $200,000 a head - for information leading to further detentions.

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