After a long court battle, Saddam Hussein's superyacht is heading back to Iraq. Cayman island firm Sudeley, part-owned by King Abdullah of Jordan, told a French commercial court in Nice that it is the legal owner, but the Iraq Government, which has trailed the yacht around the Middle East and the Mediterranean for years, said it belonged to them.
Now the court, rejecting Sudeley's claim through lack of evidence, has ceded ownership to Iraq. Iraqi counsel in Paris Amir-Aslani said: 'Ownership has been ceded to Iraq and our ambassador has come to Nice to put the Iraqi ensign on the boat.'
The superyacht is scheduled to sail from France, where it has been berthed, back to Iraq within the next week.
This history of the boat is extraordinary. Saddam Hussein ordered it in 1981, and it was built in Helsingor, the city of Shakespeare's Hamlet, by Danish shipyard Helsingor Vaerft. But, curiously, Saddam never took delivery of it, and it slept in Jeddah Harbour for many years. Last year Sudeley tried to sell it, under the name Ocean Breeze, for a cool 23.5 Euros
However, the sale was blocked by the French Government, because of the Iraq claim.
The Danish-built, 2,282-tonne yacht is 82-metres long and reportedly equipped with a hospital, swimming pools, gold taps, and a mosque. It also has a missile defence system and a mini-submarine to help him escape in case of a possible attack.
The yacht's original name, Qadissiyat Saddam, was after the battle of Marakat al-Qadisiyah, when an Arab Muslim army defeated the Sassanid Persians in the seventh century. When the yacht was built in 1981 Iraq was fighting a bloody war with neighbour Iran, which was known in Iraq by the same name, Qadissiyat. The bitter war lasted eight years and killed over one million people.
Saddam never travelled on the yacht or stayed in any of its 14 bedrooms, because he feared it would be bombed. Instead he left in the hands of the Saudi Royal Family
, an ally of Saddam at the time, who berthed it at Jeddah for many years. The Saudi Royal family, in what could have been a not-so-oblique message for Saddam, renamed the yacht Al-Yamamah, meaning 'The Dove'.
Before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Saddam registered the yacht under the name of a company registered in the UK territory of the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean.
Since the execution of Saddam in December 2006, no-one was certain who had legal ownership of the vessel.
The yacht was reportedly transferred to Nice in France in November last year and it was advertised for sale by a company called Burgess, registered in the UK. It now appears that they may have been merely sub-agents.
French police and legal officials boarded the yacht and reportedly found a document which stated the Qadisiyah Saddam belonged to the Iraqi government.
However, as published earlier by Sail-World last year, in marine circles it was generally believed to have been presented earlier in 2007 as a - cough - souvenir to Jordan's King Abdullah
The 82 metre(269 ft) yacht can accommodate 28 guests and the crew complement is 35.