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US envoy ‘disturbed’ by Afghan government’s stance on corruption

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass visits Kandahar. (US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass has said he is “disturbed by reports” that a former bank manager convicted of multimillion-dollar fraud has been moved into house arrest from prison in exchange for allegedly making a large campaign donation to the incumbent’s presidential-election campaign.

“Countless Afghans suffered in the past decade because international assistance funds were stolen for personal gain,” Bass tweeted on August 15, referring to the Kabul Bank that collapsed in 2010 after losing nearly $1 billion, mostly deposited by international donors.

The ambassador’s comments were prompted by local media reports that former banker Khalilullah Ferozi would continue to serve the one-year remainder of his sentence at home after donating $30 million to President Ashraf Ghani’s campaign fund.

He and the bank’s founder, Sherkhan Farnood, were convicted in 2013 for their involvement in the embezzlement, while the brothers of former President Hamid Karzai were granted immunity.

“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,” Bass said.

In comments to AP, presidential spokesman Sediq Seddiqi called the local reports “a big lie,” and said Ferozi’s deteriorating health was the reason for his transfer to house arrest.

Speaking about Bass’s tweets, Seddiqi said he “was very sad to see this.”

Farnood died in prison on August 28. Ghani’s spokesman said the president approved Ferozi’s transfer after the judiciary system examined his health.

Part of Ferozi’s conviction was an order to repay more than $800 million and Seddiqi called his release a “humanitarian act” so that he could stay alive to repay the money.

Combating “endemic corruption” is an impediment for achieving peace in the country, Washington’s Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction said in a report earlier this year.

The agency monitors billions of dollars of U.S. assistance to the country.