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20 Dec, 2022 17:12

US-backed officials in massive fraud case – media

Washington was reportedly aware of the widespread corruption in ex-Afghan president Ashraf Ghani’s government but continued to fund it
US-backed officials in massive fraud case – media

Afghan government officials supported by the US helped a smuggler ring sneak more than $800 million out of Afghanistan in the years prior to the Taliban takeover, Business Insider reported on Tuesday.

Citing a trove of documents the outlet obtained from former Afghan officials, it revealed that the money was mostly carried through a border crossing into the nation’s northern neighbor, Uzbekistan. Business Insider described it as “a river of cash flowing out” of Afghanistan.

The money was never declared to the country’s officials but was reported to Uzbek customs agents on the other side of the border, the outlet said, adding that it got access to a total of 457 pages of records detailing the cash flow.

According to the Uzbek customs forms, much of the money smuggled that way was destined for the United Arab Emirates, where many top Afghan officials, including the ousted president, Ashraf Ghani, and his family fled not long before the Taliban takeover.

The sum of money smuggled out of Afghanistan over that period amounted to a total of $884 million, which is about 4% of the national GDP, according to the article. It also exceeded the US annual humanitarian assistance funding for the country, the media outlet added.

The US was well aware of widespread corruption within the Afghan government but did little to stop it, Business Insider claimed. American diplomats expressed their concerns over the matter in “the inner circle of the president” to Afghan officials in March 2021. The issue was also repeatedly raised in the final report of the US Afghan Study Group and investigations by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

Yet, when the Afghan officials looking into the smuggling ring approached the US Embassy and EU diplomats after being ignored by Ghani’s government, they also did nothing about it, the article noted. Instead, the investigators themselves started to receive death threats.

Ghani was previously accused of fleeing Afghanistan with loads of cash. Republicans on the House Oversight Committee called on the attorney general in 2021 to investigate reports about Ghani supposedly fleeing Kabul “with bags full of $169 million.” The ousted president himself denies all of these allegations.

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