GHANI ORDERS RELEASE OF EX-CEO OF KABUL BANK

August 15, 2019: President Ashraf Ghani has ordered the release of Khalilullah Frozi, the ex-CEO of Kabul Bank, who is accused of having a key role in the collapse of the bank that once Afghanistan’s largest financial institution.

The text of a presidential decree seen by TOLOnews reads that Mr. Frozi has been released from the detention of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) on the order of Ghani who after assuming office as president in 2014 ordered the review the Kabul Bank bankruptcy case as a symbolic move that many Afghans at the time saw it as Mr. Ghani’s firm action against endemic corruption in public offices.

The decree argues that Mr. Frozi has been released due to an illness he suffers from.

The letter states that a task team led by Rashid Totakhel, head of policy and oversight and monitoring office of the president, was assigned to investigate the health condition and financial commitment of Mr. Frozi.

The decree says that the task team found that Mr. Froz had cooperated well in his financial commitments and that his cooperation could further expedite his reintegration to his family.

The decree also states that the task found Mr. Frozi’s health condition is unstable and if he dies in custody, the Afghan government would face serious criticism from the rights protecting organizations.

According to the assessment of the task team, in the legal perspective, there is no justification for Mr. Frozi’s transfer to his home and he should have been kept in jail or hospital.

But the letter states that its joint assessment with the court and the Attorney General’s Office from the interpretation of the law reveals that the house has also the status of the hospital.

“The president considered the outcome of the task team’s investigation legal and directed the head of the task team to implement its recommendations and transfer Khalilullah Frozi to his home,” reads the letter.

“Less than one year has left for the completion of his [Khalilullah Frozi’s] jail term and also regarding the recuperation of the loans he received from the bank, the relevant bodies have done their job,” presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

In 2015, President Ghani ordered that Mr. Frozi should serve out his full 10 years in prison and pay his court-ordered fine of $137 million.

Kabul Bank once Afghanistan’s largest financial institution collapsed in 2010 after reports of embezzlement of over $900 million.

“Many of the Kabul Bank suspects who had high-level political relations in the present and the previous governments, were not treated legally and those involved in the collapse of the Kabul Bank were treated with a political approach,” said Naser Taimoori, a researcher from the Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA).

“Such cases have always been treated politically. The chaos that we see in Afghanistan has a link with corruption,” said former presidential advisor Adila Bahram Nizami.

This comes after Mr. Frozi’s colleague Sherkhan Farnood, former chairman of the old Kabul Bank, died in prison at the age of 57 last year in August.

He was serving his sentence at Bagram Prison after being found guilty in the $900 million Kabul Bank embezzlement scandal in 2014.

The Controversial Contract

In November 2015, the government launched the ‘Smart City Township’ Project in which Khalilullah Frozi was a part.

Government officials said the aim of the program was to help the debtors of Kabul Bank repay their debt instead of being imprisoned.

The move, however, sparked an outcry.

In February 2016, President Ashraf Ghani canceled the contract of the Smart City Township.

Sherkhan Farnood was the chairman of Kabul Bank until late 2010, which was Afghanistan’s largest private financial institution with over one million customers at the time.

Farnood held a 28.16 percent share in the old Kabul Bank. By November 2010 both Farnood and Frozi had been suspended.

As of early 2011, both were effectively under house arrest and could not leave the country.

Source: Tolonews 

US ENVOY SLAMS AFGHAN GOVERNMENT’S ANTI-CORRUPTION RESOLVE

August 15, 2019: ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – The United States criticized Thursday the government in Afghanistan for releasing from jail and into house arrest a key “fraud perpetrator” before the conclusion of his sentence, allegedly in return for a multimillion-dollar campaign donation.

The U.S. reaction came after a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani confirmed the former Kabul Bank chief executive, Khalilullah Ferozi, had been transferred to his residence because of his deteriorating health.

“This action, along with the continued failure to execute warrants for those accused of corruption, calls into question the government’s commitment to combating corruption and making best use of donors’ support,” U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass tweeted Thursday.

Presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi, however, rejected as baseless allegations that Ferozi was granted the concession after a substantial donation to Ghani’s election campaign.

“Countless Afghans suffered in the past decade because international assistance funds were stolen for personal gain,” lamented ambassador Bass.

Ferozi, along with another senior colleague, Sherkhan Farnood, were tried and sentenced to 10 years and five years, respectively, for their roles in the nearly $1 billion scandal that led to the collapse of Kabul Bank in 2011, pushing the tiny Afghan economy to the brink of ruin.

Farnood, 57, died in prison last year while serving his sentence.

Ghani, who is seeking re-election in the presidential vote scheduled for Sept. 28, already has also been under fire from rival candidates for allegedly misusing state resources and funds to run his campaign.

His recent appointments to key government and foreign diplomatic posts also have been criticized by his rival candidates as pre-poll rigging.

source: VOA News

MOD REJECTS EXISTENCE OF ‘GHOST SOLDIERS’ IN AFGHAN ARMY

August 03, 2019: The Ministry of Defense on Saturday rejected a report by a top US watchdog on the existence of “ghost soldiers” – nonexistent personnel – in the structure of the Afghan National Army, saying more than 99 members of the Army have been recognized by the biometric system.

In a report to the US Congress on July 30, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the number of ANDSF troops fell by nearly 42,000 compared to the same period last year.

The report said that this quarter’s ANDSF strength decreased by 41,777 personnel since approximately the same period in 2018, and by 50,277 compared to about the same period in 2017.

According to the report, there are 180,869 Afghan National Army (ANA) and 91,596 Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel enrolled and accounted for in APPS as of May 25, 2019.

This is roughly 10,000 ANA fewer and 25,000 ANP fewer than the numbers reported to SIGAR last quarter.80 This quarter’s strength of 272,465 puts the ANDSF at 77.4%, and 79,535 personnel short, of its goal strength of 352,000.81, the report added.

Defense Ministry spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said that at least 100 percent of Afghan National Army personnel have “physical presence” on their duties and that those who were involved in corruption are under investigation by the ministry.

“There is no ‘ghost soldier’ in the ranks of the Afghan National Army,” Ahmadzai told reporters. “SIGAR has not contacted the Ministry of Defense when it made the report and it has not asked for information from the Ministry of Defense.”

Critics and some MPs said those who have been involved in creating “ghost soldiers” should be taken accountable.

“A big amount of money has been embezzled [by creation of nonexistent personnel] among the Afghan security forces… It will be a big mistake if such individuals are not taken accountable,” said Nadir Baloch, a Senator.

“Those who are responsible [for creation of ghost soldiers] should be punished,” said Mir Haidar Afzali, head of the Defense Commission of the Wolesi Jirga, the Lower House of Parliament.

This comes as the Afghan forces are fighting the Taliban and other militant groups in more than 20 provinces. Casualties among the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have also increased in recent years.

“This is the main reason behind casualties [among Afghan forces]. The creation of the 40,000 [nonexistent] soldiers, the selling of their weapons ultimately resulted in the killing of 45,000 soldiers,” military affairs analyst Atiqullah Amarkhail said.

Source: Tolonews

OFFICIAL ACCUSED OF CORRUPTION APPOINTED TO KEY POST IN GOVT

July 26, 2019: President Ashraf Ghani has appointed Walid Tamim, former head of Afghanistan Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, to two key posts in government despite the Attorney General’s Office says Tamim has three corruption cases under investigation at the judicial organization.

Legal experts said such appointments are contradicting rules and regulations in the government.

“No logic accepts that a person who is accused [of a crime] and his case is under investigation should be appointed [in government]. Based on Article 145 of the Criminal Procedure Code, such an individual cannot be appointed in any post,” said Arash Shahir, a lawyer.

“Anyone who is accused [of a crime] should first respond to those accusations. That person can be appointed to a post when he or she is acquitted [by a court],” the former governor of Kapisa, Mehrabuddin, said.

On July 25, Tamim was introduced to his new colleagues as the Deputy Finance Minister for Customs and Revenue by the Acting Finance Minister Humayun Qayumi.

Qayumi said in a tweet that based on President Ghani’s decree, Tamim was appointed as deputy finance minister until he receives his credential as the new Afghan envoy to New Delhi.

“There are dozens and hundreds of cases which might have political motives,” said Nasir Timori, a researcher at Integrity Watch Afghanistan.

Following his appointment, the Attorney General’s Office said Tamim has three corruption which are under investigations.

“A few cases from this person [Tamim] are under investigation at the Attorney General’s Office,” a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, Jamshid Rasuli, said.

Such appointments are often criticized by presidential candidates who say they are made for campaign purposes.

The Presidential Palace and Walid Tamim refused to talk in this regard.

Tamim was a close aide to Ghani in the 2014 presidential elections.

Source: Tolonews