U.S. Funds Used to Buy Villas for Wealthy Afghans

As the Washington Post has discovered, these properties are often only registered under the names of the individuals issuing the loans, such as Sherkhan Farnood, the founder and chairman of Kabul Bank, Afghanistan's largest private bank, who was also a key supporter of President Karzai during his 2009 re-election campaign. Like many of his clients, Farnood now spends the majority of his time in Dubai. And among the 16 shareholders in his bank are Mahmoud Karzai, the president's business-minded older brother, and Haseen Fahim, the brother of Afghan Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim.

Most financial transactions in Afghanistan continue to be conducted through so-called "hawalas," traditional Islamic money-transferring outfits based more on honor and good faith than receipts, a fact that makes it more or less impossible for Western corruption investigators to trace the flow of money.

According to the Washington Post, Farnood also operates a Dubai-registered hawala in Kabul. Its chief audit officer says that it helped transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from Afghanistan to Dubai in 2009 . In any case, that would be significantly more than the $150 million that people borrowing [jw5] from Farnood's bank have officially invested in properties in Dubai.

Cutting Off the Money

In the summer of 2009, the amount of money leaving Afghanistan became a bit clearer when the international security company Global Strategies Group took over responsibility for providing security at Kabul's airport and began filing reports on the money transfers. For a while, the company reported frequently to Afghanistan's domestic intelligence service. But, according to the newspaper, the company quit filing these reports in September because it was apparently no longer desired by higher-ups.

Reports on cases of persistent corruption like this have enraged American politicians and led a key panel to approve a freeze on the $3.9 billion in aid for Afghanistan's government already earmarked for the 2011 budget year. Nita Lowey, the chairwoman of the foreign aid appropriations subcommittee [jw9] of the US House of Representatives, told her colleagues last Wednesday: "I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists."

Translated from the German by Josh Ward

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