Buttock from Saddam statue hidden as Iraq asks for it back
THE buttock of Saddam Hussain's statue is being hidden in a secret location by a Derby company after it emerged that the Iraqi government was demanding the relic back.
The 2ft lump of bronze was picked up by ex-SAS soldier Nigel Ely in April 2003, when jubilant Iraqis pulled down the statue in Baghdad.
Mr Ely, 52, tried to sell it at an auction in Derby in October but failed to find a buyer who would pay the £250,000 reserve price.
Since then, he has signed the item over to Trebletap, a war relic dealer based in Alfreton Road, Derby.
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But now the Iraqi government has launched a legal battle demanding its return, claiming it is a piece of "cultural antiquity".
Staff at Trebletap have hidden the relic to protect it.
A complaint was made to the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police by the Iraqi Embassy.
Derbyshire police were then asked to get involved and Mr Ely was questioned.
He was then issued with a notice ordering him not to alter or dispose of the item while its ownership was under question.
Mr Ely said he felt "let down" by the Iraqi government and that hiding the item was the only way to stop it from being seized.
He said: "I'm quite cheesed off about it, really. Why the Iraqi government are wanting it back now, I don't know.
"From my understanding, the complaint came from the cultural minister, who probably saw it in the news and realised the value of it.
"In my point of view, until we can find the legal position of the item, then hiding it is the best thing to do.
"We've got an individual interested in buying it and this is just holding up the sale. It's become a complete nightmare."
Jim Thorpe, director of Trebletap – which sells war relics as art and gives the money to military charities – would not say whether it was in Derbyshire.
He said: "It appears that in the midst of Baghdad sits a gentleman with the rather ostentatious title of 'the Minister for Culture and the State Board for Antiquities and Heritage of the National Iraqi Museum'. It transpired that after reading about the statue and its potential value, he decided that it should be repatriated to him in Baghdad.
"The fact that when it left Iraq, it was just a lump of unwanted scrap appears to have been overlooked.
"As far as Trebletap is concerned, the item is designated for sale to support a very deserving military charity where the funds go directly to the support of injured servicemen who need help now.
"The time, effort and cost that have gone into Trebletap will not be used for the 'minister of culture and tin cans' in Iraq.
"As a safeguard, Trebletap have hidden the piece."
A spokesman for Derbyshire police confirmed that the force had been involved.
He said: "Derbyshire Constabulary can confirm we have spoken to Mr Ely and his agents in relation to the piece of Saddam Hussein's statue he brought back to the UK.
"This follows a complaint from the Iraqi government via the Iraqi Embassy, which was initially made to the Metropolitan Police last week.
"This was passed on to Derbyshire as the agents and the statue are situated in Derby.
"The Iraqi authorities have requested the return of the statue parts as they believe it to be a part of their historical and cultural heritage.
"As the ownership is in dispute we have issued a notice to Mr Ely under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act advising him not to alter or dispose of the item until the matter is resolved."
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