Karzai family owns empire in Dubai, claims daily

Saturday, September 11, 2010

LONDON - The family and close aides of Afghan President Hamid Karzai have been linked to over a dozen high-end villas in Dubai, raising fears that Western aid money sent to Afghanistan is being misused.

The Daily Telegraph Friday revealed a property empire in Dubai assembled at a cost of 90 million pounds that is owned or occupied by close relatives and associates of Karzai.

The property holdings emerged as Karzai, who leads one of the world’s poorest and most deprived countries, has struggled to salvage Afghanistan’s biggest private bank, Kabul Bank, whose money was used in purchasing the property.

The centrepiece of the holdings is a portfolio of 14 villas on the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai’s showpiece property development, registered in the name of Sher Khan Farnood, the former chairman of Kabul Bank.

Kabul Bank also owns an apartment, two business plots and a loss-making airline, Pamir Airlines, in Dubai, the report said.

Mahmoud Karzai, brother of the Afghan president and the third largest shareholder in the bank, occupies a “Signature” villa valued at up to four million pounds. Other properties are valued between three million pounds and one million pounds.

He also made a 500,000 pounds profit following the sale of a Dubai home bought with a loan from Kabul Bank.

Mahmoud Karzai is not the only member of an Afghan political family living in villas distributed across the development where David Beckham, Michael Schumacher, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are also owners.

Senior British government ministers are furious that Kabul Bank has been used to buy properties in the Gulf.

Ministers said the apparent corruption in Kabul is undermining Western attempts to stabilise the country.

The Afghan government relies on international aid to provide more than half of the revenues it uses to finance public sector wages. Karzai ordered that all salaries of 250,000 government employees, including teachers, medical workers and security forces, would be paid by direct debit to accounts with Kabul Bank two years after it was established in 2006.

Farnood occupies a grand villa in Dubai. His current status is unclear. He resigned last week under orders to hand back the Dubai properties but he has not been charged with any offence.

Kabul Bank, which runs the payroll for NATO-led security forces, has been deserted by thousands of depositors since the country’s Central Bank launched an investigation.

Filed under: Economy

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