Derbyshire police have confirmed they detained a 66-year-old man, a war art relic collector, over claims the man illegally brought the buttock – a 2ft lump of bronze – to the UK after the invasion of Iraq.
The man is said to have breached the 2003 Iraq Sanctions Order, which governs the importation of ‘Iraqi cultural property’ – including items of archaeological, historical or religious importance.
The buttock was saved from being melted down for scrap metal by 52-year-old former SAS soldier Nigel “Spud” Ely after he witnessed the statue being toppled by US marines in Baghdad in 2003.
It is understood that the arrested man is connected to Derby-based war art relic company Trebletap, allegedly attempting to find a buyer for the souvenir on behalf of Ely.
Ely said the furore was farcial, and described the Iraqis’ behaviour as “like the Elgin Marbles with attitude”.
He himself was requested by police to sign a document in recognition that he could face prosecution if he sold or defaced the buttock.
The veteran, who lives in Herefordshire, obtained the bronze momento while he worked alongside a TV crew in April 2003, and unsuccessful trying to auction it off last year.
Hi intention was to donate the money to injured troops.
The ex-soldier said: “How can it be classed as cultural property when it was put up by the biggest tyrant since Attila the Hun?”
He believes, Iraqis only came hunting for the relic after hearing about its value of £250,000 through the media.
“American Marines gave it to me and at that time Baghdad was under American control,” he added. “There wasn’t even an Iraqi government and I have since turned it into a piece of war relic art.
“This is like having a chunk of the Berlin Wall – it’s part of history but it’s not cultural property.”