Crime

From Gold Statue to Suitcase Cash, Police Find Bizarre Hauls

"Lost Treasure" haul sets new record for Brazil.

From a gold statue of the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, to cash worth $131 million in a Moscow apartment—these are just two among colorful hauls of banknotes and other gains across the world. Here’s a look at some notable seizures in recent years.

Brazilian police found suitcases and cardboard boxes bursting with bills this week in the country’s largest-ever cash seizure. The $16.4 million haul was dubbed the “Lost Treasure” and was unearthed in an apartment allegedly used by Geddel Vieira Lima, a cabinet minister until last year.

China’s former Lieutenant General Gu Junshan amassed a fortune from kickbacks, according to local media, accumulating properties, cases of Moutai liquor and even a solid gold statue of Mao Zedong. Gu was in 2015 convicted of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power, and sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve—part of President Xi Jinping’s campaign against corruption.

Suitcases and boxes filled with cash were found during the raid of an apartment in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.
Source: Brazil’s Federal Police

Nigeria’s vice president led an investigation into graft allegations against senior officials, including the head of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, after about $40 million in cash belonging to the agency was found in a private residence. The presidency said in April that Oke had been suspended, and President Muhammadu Buhari is now studying the committee’s report to decide what further action to take.

Russia’s Investigative Committee in 2014 posted a picture of stacks of bills inside a safe after it seized the then-equivalent of $131 million in cash from a Moscow apartment. It said the money came from the residence of a police colonel who headed an anti-corruption unit, providing an eye-opening example of the scale of alleged graft within the government system.

Argentina’s former Economy Minister Felisa Miceli resigned in 2007 after $31,000 and 100,000 pesos in cash were discovered in a bag in the bathroom of her office at the Economy Ministry. Miceli, who said at the time that the funds were a loan from her brother for a personal real estate transaction, was found guilty of covering up an illicit financial operation in 2015 and given a three-year suspended sentence.

Argentine politics were roiled again last year when former Public Works Secretary Jose Lopez was caught hurling bags of money over the walls of a monastery in a sleepy town outside Buenos Aires. The bags contained more than $9 million in U.S. dollars, euros, Japanese yen and even Qatari riyals. The ensuing scandal rocked the political movement that ruled Argentina for 12 years, strengthening President Mauricio Macri’s hand against the opposition.

—With assistance by David Biller and Charlie Devereux

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