January 31, 2011
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
KABUL—Investigators probing massive fraud that nearly brought down Afghanistan’s largest bank have found the lender avoided scrutiny for years by giving clandestine loans—and sometimes outright bribes—to senior Afghan officials, said Afghan and U.S. officials and former bank insiders.
Some of those who allegedly took Kabul Bank’s money were until recently among a small core group of cabinet ministers touted by U.S. and European officials as potential reformers who would clean up the pervasive corruption that has undermined President Hamid Karzai’s administration and fueled support for the Taliban.
The problems at Kabul Bank represent one of the most widespread and destabilizing corruption scandals to emerge in the nine-plus years since the U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban. Most of the government’s own accounts are at the bank and it handles roughly $1.5 billion in coalition-financed annual salary payments to about a quarter of a million Afghan soldiers, police and teachers.