Afghanistan’s Top Banker Flees Nation, Resigns

Posted June 28th, 2011 at 10:40 am (UTC-5)
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A spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called the country's top banker a “runaway governor,” disputing claims that he left the country because his life was in danger.

The spokesman, Waheed Omar, said that Central Bank Governor Abdul Qadir Fitrat did not go through official channels to resign, but instead escaped the country. He and other Afghan officials say Fitrat fled possible charges from the attorney general's office over alleged involvement in the Kabul Bank crisis.

Fitrat said on Monday he stepped down as head of the country's central bank and fled Afghanistan because he feared for his life following his role in investigating the corruption scandal involving the country's biggest lender, Kabul Bank.

The private bank lost more than $900 million in funds and nearly collapsed last year due to alleged mismanagement, cronyism and questionable lending.

President Karzai's brother and Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim's brother are both shareholders in Kabul Bank.

Fitrat told reporters outside Washington on Monday he felt that he was at risk after he exposed some people responsible for the crisis to parliament in April.

In his resignation letter, Fitrat implies that high-level government officials had interfered with the probe into Kabul Bank.

Fitrat said in April authorities have recouped only $47 million in loan money and that the government was overseeing efforts to get bank executives, shareholders and others who received illicit loans to repay the money.

Kabul Bank handles the salaries of Afghan soldiers, police and teachers.

The financial fiasco has caused some international donors to question the stability of Afghanistan's financial system, just as the country is trying to take on more responsibility for security and development.

The International Monetary Fund has decided not to renew its support program until the Afghan government takes concrete steps to resolve the Kabul Bank crisis. Tens of millions of dollars in aid from foreign donor nations has been subsequently withheld from Afghanistan.