SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)
A corruption watchdog in Afghanistan says the brothers of former President Hamid Karzai and one of his vice presidents are among 19 people and companies that still owe a total of $663 million from a 2010 loan fraud scandal at Afghanistan’s biggest commercial bank.
The Independent Joint Anticorruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee announced the figures released on October 2 — a day after newly inaugurated President Ashraf Ghani relaunched investigations into the Kabul Bank scandal.
Mahmud Karzai, the brother of the former president, was listed as owing $22.2 million on loans from Kabul Bank and having paid back only $13.4 million.
But he denied he still owed money, saying he paid back all his loans with interest.
The watchdog says Abdul Haseen Fahim, brother of former First Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim, still owes $4.4 million after paying back nearly $36 million.
Fahim could not be immediately reached for comment.
Rashed Behroz, executive director of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, said the government’s new inquiry should consider new prosecutions in the case.
“Regardless of the political and personal affiliations of the people who have been involved in this matter, these people should be prosecuted and we hope that we will soon be able to see the results of this,” he said.
The two brothers of the former Afghan leaders are both shareholders of Kabul Bank.
They were spared prosecution under a decree by former President Karzai that granted immunity to those who returned the funds.
The $935 million fraud case nearly brought about the collapse of the country’s largest commercial bank in 2010.
The two former heads of the bank, founder Sher Khan Fernod and former chief executive Haji Khalil Ferozi, were convicted of taking $810 million out of the $935 million that was stolen.
Both received five-year prison sentences.
Much of the missing money has yet to be recovered.
Ten other Kabul Bank insiders were also convicted in the case and received sentences ranging from six months to five years.
Ghani, who was inaugurated on September 29, ordered Afghanistan’s Supreme Court on October 1 to reopen the Kabul Bank case, saying, “The time for action has come, and as we had pledged, the fight against corruption will be done in a thorough and systematic way.”
Afghanistan’s courts were criticized for imposing light sentences against those convicted in the case and for allegedly failing to bring to justice the masterminds of a scheme that diverted hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent loans to bank insiders.
Kabul Bank had handled about one-third of Afghanistan’s banking and most of the government payroll — including salaries for the army and security forces.
It was renamed New Kabul Bank after a government bailout.