Monday, November 03, 2008
Sun Nov 2, 2008 BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi government plans to sell a luxury yacht, moored off the French resort of Nice, that was one of many opulent treasures belonging to former dictator Saddam Hussein, a senior official said on Sunday. The palatial Ocean Breeze is expected to be sold within weeks, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. The 270-foot pleasure boat, expected to fetch $30 million, features gold-tap bathrooms, a mini-operating theater, a helicopter landing pad and a secret escape passageway, according to a report from the British Sunday Times. Iraq's cabinet had decided to delegate the sale of the yacht to the Finance and Foreign Ministries, the government said. Dabbagh said an ownership dispute over the yacht had concluded in a French court. "The ruling was in favor of Iraq," he said. Saddam, whose decades-long regime came to an abrupt end after a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and who was hanged in 2006 for crimes against humanity, was known for a lavish lifestyle. His many palaces were replete with marble, gold-trimmed furniture and sumptuous gardens even as ordinary Iraqis suffered under severe economic sanctions. Shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003, U.S. official estimated that Saddam and his family may have amassed up to $40 billion in ill-gotten funds. U.S. missiles and bombs destroyed another luxurious Saddam yacht, the Al Mansur, in southern Iraq in 2003. While grand when it was built in 1981, the Ocean Breeze is puny compared with megayachts commissioned by a new wave of super-rich, including a 115-meter $300 million yacht owned by billionaire Roman Abramovich which boasts two helicopter pads.