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The great Saddam bling and buy sale includes £100, 000 Rolex left behind in palace | Daily Mail Online

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The great Saddam bling and buy sale includes £100, 000 Rolex left behind in palace


Last updated at 21:09 29 September 2007

It was the most lucrative day's work that Haitham Wihaib will ever do.

His boss Saddam Hussein had just spent hours in a Baghdad palace with one of his many mistresses.

As the Iraqi dictator emerged and headed towards his chauffeur-driven Mercedes, it was Wihaib's job - as his head of protocol - to check that he had not left anything behind.

"To my surprise I saw his £100,000 gold Rolex sitting on a bedside table," recalled Wihaib.

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"I ran after Saddam and stopped him just before he got in the car.

"I said, 'Your Excellency, your Excellency, you left your gold Rolex behind.'

"When he turned to me, I had never seen such a satisfied look on his face. He had clearly had a very pleasurable afternoon. He smiled and told me to keep it."

Now Saddam's former right-hand man is selling gifts he claims the tyrant gave him in a bid to raise £350,000 for Iraqi schools. Wihaib, who worked for the dictator for nearly 20 years, has set up a website inviting bids for Saddam's treasured watches, jewellery, pens and clothes.

The custom-made gold Rolex, with dozens of diamonds laid into the watch face and bracelet, is the centrepiece of his collection. The Mail on Sunday has confirmed that the watch is genuine and Wihaib's £100,000 valuation is accurate.

While there is no evidence that the items belonged to Saddam, Wihaib has built up an international reputation as an expert on his ex-boss, lecturing in the United States, South America, Japan and Australia. He should perhaps count himself lucky to have survived to do so.

After falling out with Saddam he was imprisoned several times before defecting to Britain in 1994, smuggling his collection out of Iraq.

He recalled: "All Saddam's bodyguards were very jealous when he gave me the Rolex. They knew how valuable it was. I never wore it in Iraq. His guards would have chopped my arm off for it."

Wihaib claims the vain dictator was partial to French designer accessories such as Christian Dior sunglasses and Cartier pens.

"He gave me Dior sunglasses after we'd had a lucky escape," said Wihaib.

"We'd been to the frontline with his military chiefs during the Iran-Iraq war. We were spotted by Iranian soldiers, who started chasing us.

"As we were running to get away, Saddam ordered us to stop. He lifted up his Dior sunglasses so we could see his eyes.

"He said we were to shoot him if the Iranians got any closer. But the Iranians gave up chasing us. I asked him for his sunglasses as a memento of the day and he agreed."

Now they are for sale at £6,000. Wihaib is also selling a Cartier pen for £2,500 which he says Saddam used to sign death warrants.

"He enjoyed signing death warrants and would have a pile of 25 in front of him to sign at any given time.

"Many were for criminals he had never heard of. But he took a special interest in the political enemies he had executed. He would write in Arabic beside his signature, 'May God bless his soul'"

Through Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, Saddam became interested in magic and was increasingly superstitious. He wore silver rings that he believed would protect him from danger.

One such ring, inscribed in Arabic, "For you we will open up the gates of heaven" is in Wihaib's collection and is offered at £1,500.

"Kenneth Kaunda and Saddam were doing business, trading, and were eager to please each other," said Wihaib.

"Saddam sent him a Boeing 747 full of presents - rugs, televisions, ornaments. I was sent to Africa with the plane and expected Kaunda to do the same for Saddam.

"Instead his gift was his own personal magician, who told Saddam there were many people plotting conspiracies against him. After that, Saddam always listened to magicians and wore items with magical significance."

Wihaib has yet to sell any of his souvenirs, but added: "This is for a good cause so I am not going to stop. People may say these things didn't belong to Saddam and that I cannot prove it, but they are wrong."

An expert at the Cartier store in Knightsbridge, West London, said: "The pen is certainly a Louis Cartier, although it is not from a range we still produce."

Yards down the road, at the Dior store, they were unsure about the sunglasses.

An assistant said: "They could be from a vintage range but as there are no markings on them it is very hard to tell. Dior changes its styles all the time."

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