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Taleban probe bank accounts

KABUL: Footwear is seen piled up on the tarmac at the airport in Kabul yesterday. – AFP

KABUL: The Taleban are investigating the accounts of former high-ranking Afghan government members to check for ill-gotten gains, officials said yesterday. The investigation may lead to the freezing of assets and accounts of former civil servants, ministers and lawmakers, an official at Da Afghanistan Bank told AFP, asking not to be named.

A manager of a private bank confirmed a team of “Taleban auditors” had been deployed to the organization to check the accounts of selected former government officials. Corruption was widespread and rampant under the administration of former president Ashraf Ghani, and tens of millions of dollars of aid money is believed to have been siphoned out of the public purse. Ghani himself was accused of taking millions with him when he fled to Abu Dhabi on August 15 as the Taleban entered Kabul, but he has denied the claims and says he is ready to prove his innocence.

On Tuesday, several Taleban officials posted video on their social media accounts purporting to show millions in cash and gold ingots recovered from the Panjshir residence of former vice president Amrullah Saleh. The video, which could not be independently verified, showed Taleban fighters sitting on the floor and counting cash and gold apparently found in suitcases. One fighter says they discovered about $100,000 the day after Panjshir fell to the Taleban, and a further $6.2 million and 18 gold ingots in a later search.

Saleh had holed up in Panjshir after the Taleban took Kabul, and the remote highland valley was the last province to fall to the hardline Islamists. The investigation into possible illegal assets comes as Afghanistan is in the grip of a major cash crisis, with people limited to withdrawing the equivalent of just $200 a day from personal accounts-and having to queue for hours even to do that. Even before the Taleban takeover, government salaries were frequently paid late-and in the case of rural workers there is a months-long backlog.

People are resorting to selling their household goods to raise money to pay for essentials, and bustling second-hand goods markets have mushroomed in most urban centers. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have halted Afghanistan’s access to funding, while the United States has also frozen cash held in its reserve for Kabul. Ajmal Ahmady, former acting governor of the Afghan central bank, tweeted last week that the country no longer had access to around $9 billion in aid, loans and assets.

Taleban thank world
Meanwhile, Taleban yesterday thanked the world for pledging hundreds of millions of dollars in emergency aid to Afghanistan, and urged the United States to show “heart” in future dealings. Amir Khan Muttaqi, the regime’s acting foreign minister, told a press conference the Taleban would spend donor money wisely and use it to alleviate poverty.

He was speaking a day after the United Nations said a total of $1.2 billion in aid had been pledged to Afghanistan, which was taken over by the Taleban on August 15. “The Islamic Emirate will try its best to deliver this aid to the needy people in a completely transparent manner,” Muttaqi said. He also asked Washington to show appreciation for the Taleban allowing the US to complete a troop withdrawal and evacuation of more than 120,000 people last month. “America is a big country, they need to have a big heart,” he said. – Agencies


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