Afghanistan has quietly shelved plans to send a man accused of fraud in the US to head its embassy in Britain.
Mohammad Daud Yaar, director of economic affairs at the Foreign Ministry in Kabul, had been chosen for the high-profile job, with confirmation expected to be little more than a formality. However, last week the Guardian reported that an Afghan immigrant family in California had accused Yaar of defrauding them. In 2010 they obtained a civil court judgement against him. Yaar admits to owing the family US$100,000, but says he intends to pay them back.
In the wake of the fraud claims, a government spokesman in Kabul had said his nomination was “proceeding as normal,” but sources now say that, although Yaar’s contacts may protect his longer term hopes of an ambassadorial posting, his candidacy for London is on hold.
Yaar is a long-standing and close friend of Mahmoud Karzai, the influential brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Yaar lived with another Karzai brother, Ahmed Wali, in Chicago in the late 1980s and 1990s. He had been expected to arrive in London shortly.
It is understood the decision to pull the plug on his nomination came on Friday last week after Karzai and several senior ministers returned from a summit of regional leaders in Beijing.
The British embassy in Kabul said it did not comment on ambassadorial appointments until they were confirmed.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, visiting Kabul for an international conference on Afghanistan’s future, also declined to comment, but said on Wednesday he was not concerned that Kabul had gone months without appointing an ambassador. Yaar’s imminent appointment had followed a year in which London lay vacant as Kabul struggled to find a consensus candidate for what is considered one of the most prestigious diplomatic posts.
There are now likely to be further delays. Sources outside Afghanistan say Yaar secured the UK job after intense behind-the-scenes lobbying by Mahmoud Karzai, whose business activities in the US are also being investigated. Yaar spent about 20 years in the US, where he worked as a part-time professor and also built up an extensive property portfolio.
He returned to Kabul in 2009 after the civil action. The plaintiffs, two Afghan-born brothers, Jamal and Ajmal Staneckzai, claim Yaar “tricked, defrauded and deceived” them over the 2001 purchase of a house in Fresno, California. Yaar insisted the case, from California’s Superior Court in Contra Costa, was a business deal gone wrong. He vehemently denied fraud.
“If I had committed fraud, why did they settle?” he asked last week. “It was a business agreement and the other side backed off [from their side of the deal] and went to the courts. They couldn’t prove anything.”
Yaar said he was planning to pay off the remainder of the money he owed as soon as he could afford it, but his home in California was in negative equity and his small government salary in Kabul did not leave room for savings.