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Police detain Tariq Aziz's cigar case

Boris Johnson relieved of the spoils of war

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London mayor Boris Johnson has been forcibly relieved of a cigar case formerly belonging to Tariq Aziz under the Iraq (UN Sanctions) Order 2003 which demands that "anyone possessing Iraqi cultural property must give it to the police", as the BBC puts it.

Johnson apparently found the case in the rubble of Aziz's bombed-out Baghdad house while visiting Iraq as a hack in 2003. Writing in the Telegraph, he recounted: "As I stared at the remains of his home, I saw utter destruction - surely the looters had left nothing of value? And there, just by my toe, protruding from beneath a piece of dusty plywood, was the cigar case.

"Actually, it was only the bottom half of a cigar case, in thick red leather and coarsely stitched. But I immediately saw its importance. If this was the cigar case of Tariq Aziz, think of the scenes it had witnessed."

The blond Tory bombshell claims he "subsequently received a letter from Mr Aziz offering the case as a gift", a defence which evidently didn't impress the "Labour stooges" who, having learned of the booty in an article Johnson wrote about it, demanded police action.

Cops duly informed Johnson to hand over the offending item for detention pending "further enquiries". The mayor obliged, and yesterday "deposited the case into custody". He said: "I briefly toyed with making a fuss, and pointing out how utterly selfish and stupid it was of Labour to waste police time on this kind of thing."

Johnson added: "Just when the police are trying to focus on beating knife crime and making the streets safe, they are told they must lavish money and manpower on a preposterous investigation that will do nothing for the security of the public."

And for good measure, having demanded to know why Tony Blair had not been "brought to book" over the Iraq war, Johnson concluded: "I am informed by my friends in the Metropolitan Police that I am shortly to become the one and only Western politician to be brought to justice for crimes committed in Iraq."

A police spokesman explained: "The Met works very closely with a number of countries, including Iraq, to recover items that are considered culturally significant. In order to establish the origin and potential significance of the item, such items must be submitted to police custody for further examination."

The 2003 UN order is enforced unless the owner of an item "can prove they were not aware that the property was illegally removed from Iraq". Johnson descibed the circumstances surrounding his acquisition of the cigar case as "so morally ambiguous that I cannot quite think of it as theft". ®

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