Honestly, what kind of topsy-turvy world is it where a man can't keep for himself the spoils of war he half-inched on a foreign lark?
That's just what Boris Johnson is wondering. The mayor has been forced to hand over a cigar box that he pilfered from the charred remains of Baghdad to Scotland Yard.
Boris was in Iraq in 2003, shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, when he visited the home of ex-Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. As Boris himself describes it in typically ebullient prose, he noticed the bottom half of a cigar case protruding from the rubble. Letting his inner Graham Greene emerge, Boris imagined the case ever-present at Ba'ath party meetings, "[laying] mute on the table as the air was filled with smoke and the bloodthirsty ravings of the dictator". Thrilled at getting his paws on a piece of modern history, Boris snatched it up and placed it in his pocket - "for safekeeping", naturally. We suppose he just forgot to mention it to anybody.
Alas, Labour Party muckrakers found out about the existence of the case, which under the Iraq (UN Sanctions) Order 2003 remains the cultural property of Iraq, and the authorities were duly alerted. Never mind Boris' claim to be in possession of a letter from Mr. Aziz's lawyers proffering it as a gift to the mayor (nor the thorny issue of whether the mayor should be accepting treats from a man on trial for war crimes) - the law stands, and he has been deprived of his trinket.
Defiant as ever, Boris blames Labour for this "waste of police time", and deplores the fact that he's the only politician "brought to book" over Iraq - a statement unlikely to please his Conservative counterparts, who were as enthusiastic cheerleaders for the invasion as their Labour equivalents.
Quite where the mayor will now secrete his supply of Montecristos and Cohibas is yet to be divulged.