4.2 billion dollar worth 'blizzard of banknotes' have flown out of Kabul since 2007

Last Updated: Tue, Jul 06, 2010 11:20 hrs

The 'blizzard of banknotes' leaving Kabul airport is worse than originally feared, with at least 4.2 billion dollars (around 2.8 billion pounds) exported in mysterious cash flown out of Kabul since 2007.

According to The Scotsman, congressmen in the United States have voted to suspend 4billion dollars in aid to the Afghan government last week, after media reports showed 3billion dollars in cash has been flown out of the country since 2007.

US and British fraud investigators fear that most of the money leaving Kabul has been siphoned-off from international aid contracts, or made from the country's rapidly expanding opium trade.

According to the report, the Afghan Ministry of Finance puts the real figure at 4.2billion dollars - at least 1.2 billion dollars higher than previously feared.

"Our records show that 4.2billion dollars have been transferred in cash through Kabul International Airport alone during the last three-and-a-half years," Afghanistan's finance minister, Dr Omar Zakhilwal, wrote in a letter to US Congresswoman Nita Lowey.

Zakhilwal's letter acknowledges allegations that Afghan president Hamid Karzai's government is "assisting or partaking in this fraud" but the minister hit back by pointing out that most of the money America spends in Afghanistan circumvents the Afghan government. Only 20 per cent of aid in Afghanistan (5 per cent of the whole US government's assistance) is spent through the government budget," The Scotsman quoted the letter, as saying.

Lowey, chairwoman of the aid appropriations sub-committee in Congress, has vowed not to send another dime to Afghanistan until she was confident 'that US taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords and terrorists', the paper said.

Afghanistan relies on a cash economy and there is no limit to how much money can be exported, as long as it is declared to customs, it added.

The paper states that official records show most of the money that was declared leaving Kabul since 2007 formed part of the traditional Islamic hawala system, in transfers to Dubai. The often-informal nature of the hawala contracts, based on trust, honour and lender's reputation, make the transactions almost impossible for financial investigators to track. (ANI)