South Asia

Arrest warrant for ex-Afghan bank chief over 'fraud'

Afghan officials have issued an arrest warrant for the former governor of the central bank, Abdul Qadeer Fitrat.

He is being investigated in connection with massive fraud at the privately owned Kabul Bank and the printing of unauthorised amounts of currency.

Earlier, it emerged Mr Fitrat had fled Afghanistan for the US - he said his life was in danger for exposing fraud.

He said the Afghan government had hindered his attempts to investigate corruption.

Afghanistan's Deputy Attorney General Rahmatullah Nazari said he would ask the US embassy and Interpol for help in securing Mr Fitrat's arrest.

"He will be brought here to face the judiciary. We will follow him," he told the BBC.

"There are some serious charges against him. He needs to answer all of them.''

Charges made against Mr Fitrat include that he financially mismanaged the bank, sabotaged the country's economy, ignored advice from other government institutions and did not adequately observe private banks.

The US - where Mr Fitrat has residency - does not have an extradition treaty with Afghanistan. He has said he has no plans to return to Afghanistan.

The embezzlement at Kabul Bank, Afghanistan's largest private bank, almost led to its collapse last year after it was discovered that hundreds of millions of dollars had gone missing.

The bank handles up to 80% of the government payroll, including salaries for policemen and teachers.

In April, Mr Fitrat accused several key Afghan officials - including President Hamid Karzai's brother and Vice-President Qasim Fahim - of being involved. Both deny the charges.

Then on Monday, he told reporters he had had to leave the country after receiving information that his life was in danger from "credible sources".

'Difficult job'

Mr Fitrat alleges that the central government did not assist him in his investigations or provide any help in recovering the bank's assets.

"During [the] last 10 months during the Kabul Bank crisis, I continuously pressed for the creation of a special prosecution, for the creation of a special tribunal to investigate and prosecute those who were involved in Kabul Bank's fraud," he told the BBC.

"I did not receive any information that there is a credible plan to prosecute, to investigate and prosecute these individuals. The high political authorities of the country were responsible [for blocking] these efforts," he alleged.

President Karzai has said Afghanistan lacks the necessary banking experience to oversee the central institution and has blamed foreign advisers for the crisis.

He has also pledged to ensure that those responsible are subject to criminal investigations.

The UK Department for International Development said Mr Fitrat's resignation was "regrettable", and that he had done "a difficult job handling a complex set of challenges".

"It is absolutely critical that the government of Afghanistan chooses a good quality replacement with thorough knowledge of the banking sector," it said in a statement.

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