KABUL (AFP) – An Afghan anti-corruption watchdog on Sunday criticised court verdicts handed down for a $900 million fraud that caused Kabul Bank, the country’s largest bank, to collapse in 2010. The foreign-funded Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) said the court’s action was inadequate in light of the scale of the scandal. Judges this month jailed two bank executives for five years and delivered 18 other guilty verdicts, but the MEC said in a statement they had failed to consider much of the complex financial evidence at the heart of the case. It added that millions of dollars of missing cash would likely never be found as MEC recommendations calling for reform of government bodies and legal authorities had been ignored.
The collapse of Kabul Bank exposed massive high-level corruption in Afghanistan, with international donors demanding better standards if they were to continue to provide the aid money on which the country relies.
“Almost a billion dollars disappeared from Kabul Bank,” Drago Kos, chairman of the MEC, told reporters. “This was an organised criminal group who intentionally stole money.
“Kabul Bank represents much of what is wrong in Afghanistan and its fight against corruption.”
The fraud saw fake companies given loans, and lenders’ cash spirited abroad – sometimes in airline food trays – to buy homes in Britain, Dubai, Switzerland and the United States.
The scandal touched a brother of President Hamid Karzai and a brother of Vice President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, both shareholders in the bank, but the MEC said police had never investigated allegations against them.
Kabul Bank was seized by the government in 2010 after exposure of the fraud, which led the International Monetary Fund temporarily to halt its loans to Afghanistan.
Renamed New Kabul Bank, it was later bailed out by the government.
The finance ministry has lauded the court case as a sign that corruption was being tackled, but the MEC said the legal outcome was “inappropriate”.
Billions of dollars in aid have been pledged to help Afghanistan after NATO combat troops withdraw in 2014, but only on condition that corruption is brought under control.
The Nation / Tuesday March 19, 2013