updated 12/30/2003 12:41:19 AM ET 2003-12-30T05:41:19

Saddam Hussein has acknowledged depositing billions of dollars abroad before his ouster and has given interrogators the names of people who know where the money is, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council said in remarks published Monday.

The U.S.-appointed council estimates that the Iraqi dictator seized $40 billion while in power and is now searching for that amount deposited in Switzerland, Japan, Germany and other countries, Iyad Allawi told the London-based Arab newspapers Al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat.

“Saddam has started to give information on money that has been looted from Iraq and deposited abroad,” Allawi told Asharq al-Awsat. “Investigation is now concentrated on his relationship with terrorist organizations and on the money paid to elements outside Iraq.”

Allawi said Saddam, who has been questioned by American interrogators since his capture this month, gave names of people who know where the money is deposited and also know the location of arms and ammunition depots used by insurgents in attacks against the coalition forces and the Governing Council.

In similar remarks to Al-Hayat, Allawi said Saddam had confessed to “important matters,” a reference to the smuggling of billions of dollars abroad.

“We have asked international legal and specialized companies to follow up the money he (Saddam) has deposited in Switzerland, Germany, Japan and other countries which is estimated at around $40 billion under fictitious companies’ names,” Allawi told Al-Hayat.

Allawi spoke to Lebanese journalists during a private visit to Beirut last week.

In Baghdad, Ahmed al-Bayak, anouther member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, said he was informed by council members that Saddam had started to talk about names of people inside Iraq who were carrying out attacks against U.S. forces.

“But nothing about funds,” said al-Bayak.

Entifadh Qanbar, spokesman for Ahmed Chalabi, another council member, said Chalabi’s political party, the Iraqi National Congress, had its own information about Saddam’s funds before his arrest.

“We don’t have new information on funds, and if we did we won’t be talking about this,” he said.

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