Security chief endorses $169m theft charge against Ghani

Published October 11, 2021
This file photo shows former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. — AP/File
This file photo shows former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. — AP/File

WASHINGTON: As a US government agency probes claims that former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani took with him $169 million while fleeing Kabul, a senior member of his security staff said on Sunday that he has video proof of the alleged theft.

Brigadier General Piraz Ata Sharifi, who headed Mr Ghani’s bodyguard, said in an interview that he not only saw huge bags of cash being transferred but also acquired a video clip from a CCTV camera.

“One of my jobs was to disarm the soldiers on guard at the ministry before the president arrived, for his security,” Mr Sharifi told the Daily Mail Online from a hideout in Afghanistan. Mr Sharifi, wanted by the Taliban for interrogation, is hiding at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. The Taliban have announced a reward of one million Afghanis for his arrest.

“We were waiting for the president there. But then I got a call to say that instead of coming to the defence ministry, the president went to the airport. The defence minister had also fled. So had my boss. So had all of Mr Ghani’s close family and entourage,” he said.

Sharifi claims ex-Afghan president stole hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars before fleeing

“I have a [CCTV] recording [from the palace] which shows that an individual at the Afghan Bank brought a lot of money to Mr Ghani before he left,” Mr Sharifi claimed. “Hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars. There were many big bags, and they were heavy.”

He said he was disappointed as he liked Mr Ghani. “This money was for the currency exchange market.

Each Thursday, the dollars were brought for that purpose. Instead, it was taken by the president. Mr Ghani knew in the end what would happen. So, he took all the money and escaped.”

Mr Ghani, however, has denied the allegation that he left Kabul with four cars and a chopper full of $169 million, adding that he left Afghanistan unceremoniously to avoid a bloodshed. His abrupt departure allowed the Taliban to take Kabul two weeks before the US troop pullout.

Earlier this week, the US government’s inspector general in charge of investigating misuse of aid money in Afghanistan told Congress he’s “looking into” claims that Mr Ghani and his subordinates stole millions of dollars before fleeing.

“We haven’t proven that yet. We’re looking into that,” Inspector General John Sopko said during a House hearing on Afghanistan.

“There are allegations, but not only with President Ghani. There are allegations with senior officials in their finance ministry, their central bank and a number of other ministries walking off with millions of dollars,” he said.

“But again, those are just allegations. We have not confirmed any of those yet,” he said.

Last month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that so far, they had no evidence of Mr Ghani’s involvement in this theft, but the Biden administration would let the United Nations probe the allegations. “We’d defer to the UN on that. I don’t have any further comment from here,” she said.

Published in Dawn, October 11th, 2021

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