Taliban probing bank accounts linked to former Afghan officials

Published September 15, 2021
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. — AFP
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. — AFP

KABUL: The Taliban are investigating the accounts of former high-ranking Afghan government members to check for ill-gotten gains, officials said on Tuesday.

The investigation may lead to the freezing of assets and accounts of former civil servants, ministers and lawmakers, an official at Da Afghanistan Bank said.

A manager of a private bank confirmed a team of “Taliban auditors” had been deployed to the organisation 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 Taliban entered Kabul, but he has denied the claims and says he is ready to prove his innocence.

On Tuesday, several Taliban 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 Taliban 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 Taliban, and a further $6.2 million and 18 gold ingots in a later search.

Saleh had holed up in Panjshir after the Taliban 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 Taliban 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 centres.

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.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2021

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