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Nov 5, 2014 7:11 AM

AP Interview: Afghan bank head says scandal over

The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) The governor of Afghanistan's central bank said Wednesday the scandal that saw almost $1 billion embezzled from the Kabul Bank by senior shareholders has been "resolved" after more than $300 million has been recovered.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Noorullah Delawari said another $500 million to $600 million worth of assets have been identified and now are being pursued through the courts or via requests to other countries, like the United States.

"It's not a puzzle anymore," Delawari said. "What has been done is done. We are responsible, the receiver is responsible and what has not been done has been referred to the court, and it is up to the court to decide. "

The Kabul Bank collapsed in 2010 and was placed in receivership after major shareholders, including relatives of senior politicians such as former President Hamid Karzai, were accused of using it to fund lavish lifestyles.

The scandal shook international confidence in Afghanistan's financial sector and its ability to oversee its banking industry. The subsequent $835 million bailout of bank was the equivalent of 5 percent of Afghanistan's annual gross domestic product.

President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, has made corruption one of the cornerstones of domestic policy. Within days of his inauguration, Ghani ordered the Kabul Bank inquiry reopened. A special tribunal was set up to review the prosecutions of those at the center of the scandal.

Since the 2001 U.S.-led war began, Afghanistan's economy has been boosted by foreign spending. The World Bank has said about 97 percent of Afghanistan's gross domestic product is derived from spending linked to foreign forces and the donor community.

It has estimated that economic growth would drop this year to 1.5 percent, compared to 14.4 percent in 2012 as investors and consumers worried about the coming security and political transitions. Foreign combat troops are due to withdraw at the end of this year, with a force of 9,800 U.S. soldiers remaining under a bilateral security agreement with Washington.


Follow Lynne O'Donnell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lynnekodonnell .


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