Thu, 21 Sep 2023

Washington [US], August 11 (ANI): The allegations that former Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and his senior advisors fled aboard with millions in cash are unlikely to be true, according to a new report by the US government's oversight authority on Afghanistan.

A report published by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said Ghani fled barefoot, without the millions of dollars that he was reported to be carrying and secretly, on August 15 last year as the capital fell to the Taliban.

"The departure was so sudden that the president was barefoot, forcing Kochai to find the president's shoes. The president did not have time to get his passport," one of the Afghanistan officials told SIGAR.

Following the Taliban takeover, various media accounts reported allegations that former President Ashraf Ghani and his senior advisors fled Afghanistan with millions of dollars in cash loaded onto the helicopters that carried them from the presidential palace to Termez, Uzbekistan, on August 15, 2021.

The report titled "Theft of Funds from Afghanistan: An Assessment of Allegations Concerning President Ghani and Former Senior Afghan Officials", assesses the validity of these allegations.

The US report found that some cash was taken from the grounds of the palace and loaded onto President Ghani's evacuation helicopters, evidence indicates that this number did not exceed USD 1 million and may have been closer in value to USD 500,000.

Most of this money was believed to have come from several Afghan government operating budgets normally managed at the palace. SIGAR also identified suspicious circumstances in which approximately USD 5 million in cash was accidentally left behind at the presidential palace.

The report says that some or all of this money likely belonged to President Ghani or the government of the United Arab Emirates. Some or all of it was also supposedly divided by members of the Presidential Protective Service after the helicopters departed but before the Taliban captured the palace.

According to the findings in the SIGAR report, the hurried nature of their departure, the emphasis on passengers over cargo, the payload and performance limitations of the helicopters, and the consistent alignment in detailed accounts from witnesses on the ground and in the air all suggest that there was little more than USD 500,000 in cash on board the helicopters.

Millions of additional dollars nearly made it on board, though some or all of this money may have been former President Ghani's legitimately earned and declared money.

"That being said, it remains a strong possibility that significant amounts of U.S. currency disappeared from Afghan government property in the chaos of the Taliban takeover--including millions from the presidential palace and the NDS vault. Attempts to loot other government funds appear to have been common," the report said.

Ashraf Ghani is immensely proud of his tenure as President of Afghanistan in the face of historic challenges, said his lawyer in response to the allegations that the former president and his senior advisors fled the war-ravaged country with millions of dollars in cash loaded onto the helicopters.

He says accountability and transparency significantly and systematically increased during Ghani's Presidency.

"President Ghani welcomes a full and comprehensive investigation of the Afghanistan government during his tenure, which he is confident will show that he acted with the utmost integrity during his time in office and through his departure last August," the lawyer added. (ANI)

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