Benjamin Franklin may be one of the most wanted men in Iraq right now, as the country’s officials threaten to take the Pentagon to court to recoup some $6.6 billion in cash airlifted from the U.S. in 2004 for the purpose of Iraqi reconstruction.

Up until recently, the Pentagon maintained that the missing billions — which appear to account for roughly half of the total amount of money sent to Iraq at the time — was lost in an accounting error. Now, seven years later, sheepish U.S. officials are looking at mountains of evidence of fraud, waste and neglect and finally admitting that the money may have been stolen. –ARK

The Los Angeles Times:

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash — enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be “the largest theft of funds in national history.”

The mystery is a growing embarrassment to the Pentagon, and an irritant to Washington’s relations with Baghdad. Iraqi officials are threatening to go to court to reclaim the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations’ oil-for-food program.

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