Two men who were arrested on suspicion of breaching Iraqi sanctions after claims they illegally imported a piece of a statue of Saddam Hussein, thought to be his buttock, will not face charges, police said.
The unnamed pair, aged 67 and 52, were arrested in January following claims that the younger of the two had breached Section 8 of the Iraqi Sanctions Order 2003.
The statue was toppled by US marines and jubilant Iraqis in Firdos Square, Baghdad, in March that year and it was alleged the piece had been put up for auction in Derby, but not sold.
Under the order, anyone possessing Iraqi cultural property must give it to the police.
It is believed the piece of the statue was the buttock – a 2ft lump of bronze – that was saved from being melted down as scrap metal by former SAS soldier Nigel “Spud” Ely after he witnessed Saddam’s statue being brought down on the day US troops rolled into Baghdad.
But a police inquiry has established doubts on whether that is the case.
Speaking in January, Mr Ely described the Iraqi authorities’ claim to be rightful owners of the bronze as “like the Elgin Marbles with attitude”.
Describing the furore surrounding the buttock as farcical, the London-born veteran, who lives in Herefordshire, questioned how a piece of metal from a statue put up by a dictator could be classified as national cultural property.
He said: “How can it be classed as cultural property when it was put up by the biggest tyrant since Attila the Hun?”
The Iraqi government made a complaint via the Iraqi Embassy and Derbyshire Constabulary launched an investigation, the force said.
A spokeswoman added: “Despite a thorough investigation, the piece alleged to be from the statue has not been recovered and we found evidence to cast doubt on the authenticity of its origin.
“As a result, the men have been released from bail and the Iraqi Embassy has been informed of this outcome.
“It is disappointing that a large amount of police time and resource has been required to investigate the claim that this item was genuine. If any new evidence comes to light, or if the item is traced and is shown to be genuine, further police action will be taken.”