Graft fears as massive cash sums fly out of Kabul: WSJ

Chandi Dharmaratne

KABUL, June 28, 2010 (AFP) – More than three billion dollars in cash has been flown out of Kabul in recent years amid fears that ill-gotten gains from corruption and narcotics are being stashed overseas, a report said Monday. The Wall Street Journal said the cash — more than the Afghan government collects in tax and customs revenue annually — is legally declared and packed into suitcases or cargo pallets on flights out of Kabul International Airport.

“A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium, of course,” a US official who is investigating corruption and Taliban financing told the newspaper.

Investigators believe some of the cash comes from Western-funded aid projects and US, European and NATO contracts to provide security and reconstruction work for coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Most of the funds passing through the airport are moved by hawalas, often-secretive private money transfer businesses popular in the Islamic world, the WSJ said citing its own review of Afghan customs records.

US dollars, Saudi riyals, Pakistani rupees, Norwegian kroner and even outdated Deutschmarks redeemable for euros are reportedly being flown out of Kabul.

“You get boxes loaded on the back of