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Watchdog criticizes Ghani’s handling of Kabul Bank funds recovery

KABUL (TOLOnews): The anti-corruption group Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) strongly criticized the handling of the Kabul Bank corruption case by the government of President Ashraf Ghani, saying that only $30 million of stolen assets have been recouped during Ghani’s tenure. Allegedly, $913 million was stolen.

The IWA said that six years have passed since Ghani pledged to recoup the money; however, the fate of millions of dollars stolen money from the bank still remains unclear.

“The government has failed to recover the stolen money of the Kabul Bank. Over the past six years, only $30 million has been recovered,” said Sayed Ekram Afzali, the CEO of Integrity Watch Afghanistan.

Anti-corruption organizations have said that the Afghan government has failed to take back the money from the bank’s key debtors.

After assuming office as president in 2014, Ghani pledged to recover the money stolen from the bank.

“Today the Kabul Bank case will be reopened as part of efforts against endemic corruption, it will be assessed systematically and will be followed,” said Ghani during a speech in 2014.

Meanwhile, The Ambassadorial Anti-Corruption Group (UN, EU, NATO, World Bank, US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Denmark, Italy, Germany and Norway) issued a statement voicing strong concern over “slowdown” in Afghanistan’s anti-corruption efforts.

“The Ambassadorial Anti-Corruption Group is deeply concerned about the slowdown in Afghanistan’s anti-corruption efforts, as documented by the recently published UNAMA annual anti-corruption report. Addressing widespread corruption is crucial for sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. The upcoming peace talks require all parties to demonstrate their commitment to integrity, accountability and the rule of law by concrete actions rather than polarization through mutual accusations of corrupt practices,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.

“Continued delays in establishing the strategic and institutional anti-corruption framework are of serious concern. The lack of effective investigations and prosecutions, in particular of high-level suspects, is also worrisome and we urge thorough investigation of the multiple allegations of misuse of public funds. It is paramount that these shortcomings are addressed to provide the necessary confidence and assurance for Afghan citizens. This is also important in the run-up to the Pledging Conference planned to take place in Geneva,” the statement said.

The Central Bank of Afghanistan so far has not provided any detail about the amount of money paid back by the debtors. But in the past, reports have surfaced in media that $600 million was stolen from the bank and has not been recovered.

“No breakthrough was achieved regarding the recovery of the embezzled assets,” said Khairullah Saraj, an advisor to the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC). “This indicates weakness in the intelligence agencies and also in the law enforcement agencies,” said Wahid Farzayee, a legal expert in Kabul.

Background:

Kabul Bank collapsed in 2010 when there was a depositor panic in the wake of revelations about top executives at the bank embezzling millions of dollars. They were alleged to have stolen up to 913 million USD. The special court assigned to the investigation of the case at the time found 20 people guilty, including Sher Khan Farnood and Khalilullah Ferozi, who remain in jail today. most of those convicted, however, have since been released.

President Ghani has ordered the arrest of 19 individuals who were implicated in the plot.

Meanwhile, within 10 days, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and the Central Bank of Afghanistan (CBA) will seek to recoup what was stolen, under the supervision of the Attorney General’s office. The president has also directed the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to finalize the documents for the full privatization of the Kabul Bank within ten days.

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