After reviewing Afghan custom records, the Wall Street Journal reported that during a three-year period more than $3.1 billion in U.S. dollars left Afghanistan through the airport destined for Middle Eastern countries like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. More than $3 billion has been shipped from a country the CIA Fact Book claims only collected $1 billion in taxes annually.
However, U.S. officials believe the number to be much higher. A senior U.S. official said one courier alone removed $2.3 billion in the second half of 2008 and into 2009.
Investigators believe the cash is being siphoned from legitimate Western aid programs and being declared, placed in suitcases and pallets, and shipped to safe havens with the knowledge of the U.S. and NATO officials. For example, NATO gave Afghanistan approximately $14 billion last year.
“More declared cash flies out of Kabul each year than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue nationwide. It’s not like they grow money on trees here,” said one U.S. official investigating the corruption and Taliban. “A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium (poppies), of course.”
President Karzai’s brother, Mahmood, who coincidentally is a U.S. citizen (under investigation for racketeering in the U.S.), contends it is the political opponents who are skimming money and sending it out of the country.
“Yes, millions of dollars are leaving this country but it is all taken by politicians. Bribes, corruption, all of it,” Mahmood Karzai says.
Even more perplexing is the fact Mahmood Karzai fears nothing and even dares the U.S. to investigate. “Let’s find out who is taking it. Let’s not go on rumors.” He continues to explain that he has talked with U.S. officials about this corruption and maintains his innocence when it comes to profiting from U.S. contracts.
Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal confirmed there is missing money at a press conference, “We do not even know about it. We don’t know whose it is, why it is leaving, or where it is going.”
Senior officials are complaining that money is leaving faster than anyone realizes. “You get boxes loaded on the back of airplanes. You get guys, literally, bringing boxes of cash onto the plane.”
Another method used to get money out of Afghanistan is the airport’s VIP area. Often the VIPs are driven straight to their planes where they load their cash directly on board and fly off, according to Afghan General Asif and U.S. officials.
General M. Asif Jabar Khail, the chief customs officer at Kabul airport, described a recent incident where he came across one VIP who was taking undeclared millions out of the country and when they tried to stop the VIPs flight to Dubai, they were met with fierce opposition from higher-ups in the Afghanistan government. “It came from very, very senior people. They told me there was an arrangement with the central bank and told me to let it go.”
President Hamid Karzai sees the money changing hands differently. “Making money is fine and taking money out of the country is fine. The relatives of government officials can do this, starting with my brothers. But there’s a possibility of corruption.” If this is true why does America and NATO continue to send billions to such a corrupt country?
Middle men just making a buck
The preferred method of money transfer in Afghanistan moves through “hawalas.” This is a system the Muslim countries have used for many centuries.
The rules surrounding the money changers or “hawala” are sketchy and the handlers keep track of millions/billions in a simple notebook. There is no electronic process for the centralized government to monitor the money exchanging hands.
According to U.S. officials, Afghan couriers reportedly name the hawala responsible for handling the first transfer of the money as well as the second handler accepting the cash in other countries like Dubai.
These hawala’s are the backbone of the Afghan financial sector and the State Department discloses that 80-90 percent of all the monetary matters pass through the primitive hawala system.
While this fraud is sure to anger the U.S. taxpayer, there is even more money being carried through Afghanistan’s porous borders. Afghan officials claim there is more than $10 million that crosses the border each day. This adds up to an additional $3.65 billion a year.
Officials agree that much of the insurgency money is derived from the illicit opium trade, as drugs have long been an easy way for rebels to earn the capital needed to fight a war.
Part four; Terrorism’s down-payment in the form drugs and U.S. aid money
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.