A new report commissioned by the Afghan finance ministry says deliberate deception and systematic failure led to the embezzlement of more than $900m from Kabul Bank, Afghanistan’s largest bank.
The report, leaked on Wednesday, also says the scandal, which saw a small group of well-connected Afghans become extremely wealthy, will cost the country an estimated five per cent of its GDP.
Among the allegations facing 22 people put on trial are fraudulent property deals, massive off-book loans to officials in the government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and loans to fake corporations.
The Independent Joint Anti-corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, which conducted the investigation, says airline food trays were used as one means through which $861m was smuggled out of the country and into banks in more than two dozen countries.
According to the 87-page report, 10 pilots working for Pamir Airways, which the bank had a stake in, were paid annual salaries of over $300,000. These costs, dated from March 2008 to November 2010, were categorised as “pilots of cash delivery”.
Another $66m was said to have gone to cars, rent, bonuses, salary advances and salaries for employees that did not exist.
Khalilullah Ferozi, CEO of the bank, was also reported to have gone on shopping sprees at Louis Vuitton and Versace with money from the bank.
Najeeb Azizi, speaking to Al Jazeera from the Afghan capital, said the accused, many of whom are closely connected to the bank’s former officials, showed “no sympathy towards this country or the people of this country”.
Though Karzai himself is not implicated in the report, his brother and a brother of Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, first vice president, are among the bank’s shareholders listed as having taken out loans from the bank.
Neither Mahmood Karzai, nor Zahid Fahim have been accused of wrongdoing.
Sher Khan Farnoud, a world-class Poker player and the bank’s founder and chairman, and Ferozi, are listed among the nearly two dozen people accused of involvement in the fraud that pushed the nation’s once-biggest private lender to the brink of collapse.
“The indictment did not include officials from accounting firms that created false documents for Kabul Bank, airline employees that smuggled money out of Afghanistan, or shareholders who received funds from loans at zero interest, apparently without the intention of repayment,” the report said.
The scandal, which first broke in 2010, prompted the International Monetary Fund to temporarily suspend hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid to Afghanistan.
At its height, the privately-owned bank had more than one million depositors and handled one-third of the Central Asian nation’s banking assets.