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$900 million embezzled from Afghanistan's top bank

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 29th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Kabul Bank, Afghanistan's largest bank has reported $900 million embezzlement. Officials say that deliberate deception and systematic failure led to an overwhelming amount of theft that effectively robbed five percent from Afghanistan's GDP.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to a new report commissioned by the Afghan finance ministry says the scandal saw a small group of well-connected Afghans becoming extremely wealthy.

All in all, 22 people are accused in the embezzlement. The charges the defendants now face include fraudulent property deals, massive off-book loans to officials in the government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and loans to fake corporations.

Airline food trays were used as one means through which $861 million was smuggled out of the country and into banks in more than two dozen countries. According to the 87-page report, by the Independent Joint Anti-corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, 10 pilots working for Pamir Airways, which the bank had a stake in, were paid annual salaries of over $300,000. These costs, dated from March 2008 to November 2010, were categorized as "pilots of cash delivery".

Another $66 million was said to have gone to cars, rent, bonuses, salary advances and salaries for employees that simply did not exist.

Bank CEO Khalilullah Ferozi was also reported to have gone on shopping sprees at Louis Vuitton and Versace with money from the bank.

The accused, many of whom are closely connected to the bank's former officials, showed "no sympathy towards this country or the people of this country," Najeeb Azizi says.

While Karzai is not implicated in the report, his brother and a brother of Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, first vice president, are among the bank's shareholders listed as having taken out loans from the bank.

Neither Mahmood Karzai nor Zahid Fahim has been accused of wrongdoing.

A world-class Poker player and the bank's founder and chairman Sher Khan Farnoud, along with Ferozi are listed among the nearly two dozen people accused of involvement in the fraud that pushed the nation's once-biggest private lender to the brink of collapse.

"The indictment did not include officials from accounting firms that created false documents for Kabul Bank, airline employees that smuggled money out of Afghanistan, or shareholders who received funds from loans at zero interest, apparently without the intention of repayment," the report said.

First breaking in 2010, the scandal prompted the International Monetary Fund to temporarily suspend hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid to Afghanistan.

The privately-owned bank at its height had more than one million depositors and handled one-third of the Central Asian nation's banking assets.

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