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The Indian Express, July 6, 2010

Over USD4 bn in cash flies out of Kabul

"The amount could be even higher. Afghanistan's gross omestic product was USD 13.5 billion last year", the paper said.

More than USD 4.2 billion in cash has moved from Kabul airport during the past three-and-a-half years, far exceeding the earlier estimate and raising fresh concerns about corruption in the war-torn country.

"Our records show that USD 4.2 billion has been transferred in cash through Kabul International Airport alone during the last three-and-a-half years," Omar Zakhilwal, the Afghan Finance Minister wrote in a letter to Nita Lowey, a US Congresswoman.

A blizzard of bank notes is flying out of Afghanistan -- often in full view of customs officers at the Kabul airport -- as part of a cash exodus that is confounding U.S. officials and raising concerns about the money's origin.
The cash, estimated to total well over $1 billion a year, flows mostly to the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, where many wealthy Afghans now park their families and funds, according to U.S. and Afghan officials. So long as departing cash is declared at the airport here, its transfer is legal.
The Washington Post, Feb. 25, 2010

The US lawmaker, last week blocked almost a USD 4 billion in aid to the Afghan Government after reports that USD 3 billion in cash had been flown out of the country since 2007, amid fears that the money could be ill-gotten gains of top officials being sent abroad to tax havens.

'The Times' in a report said that the documents in its possession reveal that the Afghan Ministry of Finance estimates the real figure of money having been moved out of Afghanistan was USD 1.2 billion higher than earlier reports.

"The amount could be even higher. Afghanistan's gross omestic product was USD 13.5 billion last year", the paper said.

Lowey, chairman of the aid appropriations subcommittee, said no more money would be sent to Afghanistan until she was confident "that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists".

Dr Zakhilwal's letter acknowledges allegations that President Karzai's Government is "assisting or parttaking in this fraud" but points out that most of the money that America spends in Afghanistan circumvents the Governments.

"Only 20 per cent of aid in Afghanistan is spent through the government budget. The rest is going to development and security projects outside our systems and outside our control," he wrote.

US and British fraud investigators fear that most of the money leaving Kabul has been siphoned off from aid contracts or made from the country's booming opium trade.

Official records show that most of the money declared leaving Kabul since 2007 formed part of the Islamic hawala money transfer system.

The USD 4.2 billion figure does not include cash exported from Afghanistan's other international airports.

Category: Corruption - Views: 6092