World News

Afghanistan detains eight people over Kabulbank scandal

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan authorities detained eight people in a relation to Afghanistan’s Kabulbank scandal, a top Afghan prosecutor said on Sunday, including three Indian nationals who their embassy said were released hours after being taken in.

A local bus passes in front of a branch of the Kabulbank in Kabul September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

Deputy Attorney General Rahmatullah Nazari said the individuals were detained because of a possible connection to the Kabulbank crisis, but declined to comment further on specific charges against them.

Politically well-connected Kabulbank doled out nearly half a billion dollars in unsecured and undocumented loans to Afghanistan’s elite, including sitting ministers, and a powerful former warlord before its dramatic collapse last year.

“Our office was instructed to make the detentions to investigate them in connection with the Kabulbank crisis but I can’t say any more on this,” Nazari told Reuters.

The Indian embassy said it was giving consular support to the three Indian nationals, who were held for part of Saturday before being released without charges.

Nazari could not immediately be reached for further comment on the status of the other five detainees, all Afghan nationals.

The detentions were made three days after former Kabulbank chairman Sher Khan Farnood and former chief executive officer Khalilullah Fruzi were arrested on embezzlement charges.

Nazari said at the time that both would go on trial within a month but did not provide specific charges against them.

Kabulbank was taken over by the central bank after corruption, bad loans and mismanagement cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in what Western officials in Kabul describe as a classic Ponzi scheme.

It had outstanding loans of about $926 million, of which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says about $900 million is at risk, or about 7.5 percent of aid-reliant Afghanistan’s GDP.

Last week, central bank governor Abdul Qadir Fitrat told Reuters in a hotel in Virginia he had quit his job and fled to the United States in fear of his life for his role in investigating the scandal.

The Afghan government said soon after his resignation that warrants had been issued for Fitrat’s arrest.

Reporting by Hamid Shalizi, editing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Yoko Nishikawa