Cigar Aficionado

Much Ado About a Cigar Case

A red leather Iraqi cigar case belonging to London Mayor Boris Johnson has prompted not only a Scotland Yard investigation, but a political scandal as well.

British police confirmed Tuesday they possess the controversial cigar case, which is believed to be Iraqi cultural property. Under a U.N. sanction adopted by the United Kingdom in 2003, a person in possession of Iraqi cultural property must turn it over to police or risk penalty of law.

Johnson came across the case while working as a journalist in Iraq in 2003. In a column for Tuesday's Daily Telegraph, the city's largest newspaper, the mayor wrote that he found the case in the bombed-out villa of former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz's. Aziz was one of Saddam Hussein's best-known lieutenants, frequently seen with a lit cigar in his mouth.

"And there, just by my toe, protruding from beneath a piece of dusty plywood, was the cigar case," Johnson wrote.

Steve Pound of the Labour Party labeled the Conservative Johnson's action as "pilfering," and he used the opportunity to attack Johnson's election promise to be tough on crime.

"Boris has been banging on from day one about zero tolerance, but zero tolerance seems to be a selective concept," Pound told The Associated Press.

Johnson's column claims members of the Labour Party started the "time-wastingly idiotic" investigation by telling police about the cigar case, but party officials denied the allegation.

In the same column, Johnson says he received a letter from Aziz's lawyers that said the former Saddam Hussein deputy "wishes me to regard the cigar case as a gift."