Afghan vice-president landed in Dubai with $52m in cash
Ambassador in Kabul reports pervasive ‘wealth extraction’ by establishment and apparent powerlessness of US to stop it.
Rampant government corruption in Afghanistan – and the apparent powerlessness of the US do to anything about it – is laid bare by several classified diplomatic cables implicating members of the country’s elite.
In one astonishing incident in October 2009 the then vice-president, Ahmad Zia Massoud, was stopped and questioned in Dubai when he flew into the emirate with $52m in cash, according to one diplomatic report. Massoud, the younger brother of the legendary anti-Soviet resistance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, was detained by officials from the US and the United Arab Emirates trying to stop money laundering, it says.
However, the vice-president was allowed to go on his way without explaining where the money came from.
The cable, sent by the ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, detailed the colossal scale of capital flight from Afghanistan – often with the cash simply carried out on flights from Kabul to the UAE.
“Vast amounts of cash come and go from the country on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. Before the 20 August [presidential] election $600m in banking system withdrawals were reported; however in recent months some $200m.”
Couriers are said to usually carry the money on Pamir Airlines, which is jointly owned by Kabul Bank and influential Afghans such as Mahmood Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, and Mohammad Fahim, a Tajik warlord who was Hamid Karzai’s vice-presidential running mate in the August 2009 election.
The cable records that exporting cash is encouraged by the fact that “drug traffickers, corrupt officials and to a large extent licit business owners do not benefit from keeping millions of dollars in Afghanistan and instead are motivated to move value into accounts and investments outside of Afghanistan”.