A captured Iraqi tank that ended up on eBay and was bought by a Helmdon company has been found to be concealing a £2m haul in gold bars.
The ingots were discovered by tank renovation specialist Todd Chamberlain in one of five reserve fuel tanks of the Russian-made vehicle that had been part of the invasion of Kuwait nearly 30 years ago.
Since the discovery last week, Mr Chamberlain and business owner Nick Mead of Tanks a Lot, have been besieged by the world’s media.
A Hollywood director has asked to film the incredible story and George Clooney has done voice over for an online report of the discovery.
“The five gold bars are each about eight inches by four and about three inches high. They weigh 72lb in total,” said Mr Chamberlain.
“They were hidden in a reserve fuel tank which was a common hiding place for rounds of ammunition. It was like opening up King Tutankhamun’s tomb.
“The gold was taken away by the authorities who turned up in an unmarked car, all ‘tooled up’. We were given a receipt and they went. They didn’t stay for tea! And we are seeing the Kuwaiti Interior Minister today (Tuesday),” said Mr Chamberlain.
He said after capture by US forces the tank would have been inspected for munitions by MI5. Once it was declared free of munitions it would have been open to the highest bidder.
The gold stayed hidden and decades later the tank was put on eBay, where Tanks a Lot bought it for renovation and trialling on its 100-acre grounds for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
“The Iraqi invaders looted and stole as much as they could for Saddam Hussein or for themselves. We know this gold was stolen,” said Mr Chamberlain. “Formal inquiries will be made but it will be years before anyone finds out how it happened or who it belongs to.
“First of all they’d have to try to track down the tank’s crew and they were probably blown to bits by the Americans on the Basra road.”
Because firearms are occasionally found during tank renovations, the Tanks a Lot team makes video documents of every aspect of their work on a vehicle.
“My first reaction on finding the gold was relief that it wasn’t munitions as that is a real pain in the neck, requiring the MoD to attend,” said Mr Chamberlain, 50.
Tanks a Lot owns 130 tanks and works with the film and TV industry and much else from stunt work to stag dos. The company’s biggest customer is the MoD for whom it helps with weapons development and trials.