Wed, Jul 07, 2010 - Page 5 News List

At least US$4.2 bn flown out of Kabul airport, paper says

AFP , LONDON

At least US$4.2 billion in cash has left Kabul airport in the past three-and-a-half years, a newspaper said yesterday, raising fresh concerns about corruption in Afghanistan.

A senior US lawmaker last week blocked billions of dollars in aid for Afghanistan after a report indicated that US$3 billion had been flown out of the country over three years.

However, yesterday’s report in British daily the Times put the figure higher, citing a letter from Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal to US lawmaker Nita Lowey, who suspended the aid.

TRANSFER

“Our records show that US$4.2 billion has been transferred in cash through Kabul International Airport alone during the last three-and-a-half years,” Zakhilwal wrote. “The amount could be even higher.”

In the letter, dated June 30, two days after Lowey angrily blocked the aid, the finance minister also requested US cooperation to determine the money’s origins.

SUITCASES OF CASH

Lowey’s decision to block the aid was in response to a report in the Wall Street Journal that top Afghan officials flew suitcases full of cash from US ai d to foreign safe havens.

The lawmaker, who sits on the powerful committee in charge of the budget, said she would hold hearings into the allegations.

“I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists,” she said.

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