Afghan corruption the fault of foreigners, Karzai says

  • Article by: ALISSA J. RUBIN , New York Times
  • Updated: December 11, 2011 - 9:14 PM

Afghan President Hamid Karzai gestures , as he speaks during a ceremony marking the International Anti-Corruption Day in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011. Hamid Karzai said on Sunday during a speech in Kabul that the attacks were carried out by people seeking to undermine Afghanistan's peace and stability. He did not provide details.

Photo: Musadeq Sadeq, Associated Press - Ap

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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - President Hamid Karzai blamed foreigners on Sunday for the corruption of Afghan officials and demanded the United States extradite the former chief of the Afghan Central Bank in connection with the collapse of Kabul Bank, Afghanistan's largest financial institution.

The former governor of the Central Bank, Qadir Fitrat, is living in Virginia. He fled Afghanistan, saying he feared for his life after he was involved in making public the massive fraud at Kabul Bank and removing its senior management.

Neither of the top bank officers nor any of the major shareholders, who include a brother of Karzai's and a brother of the first vice president, Mohammad Qasim Fahim, have been prosecuted, although all of them are still in Afghanistan.

Referring to Fitrat, Karzai said, "The government of the United States should cooperate and hand him over to us."

Karzai made the remarks at an event sponsored by the United Nations to mark International Anti-Corruption Day. Transparency International, which tracks perceptions of global corruption, ranks Afghanistan in a tie as second worst.

Several Western diplomats and officials working with the Afghan government said they were disappointed by Karzai's speech. While foreigners are unquestionably involved in some of the corruption, they shared responsibility with the Afghans and were only peripherally involved in the Kabul Bank debacle.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador, said he believed that corruption was now being taken more seriously, although progress was slow and none of the main people responsible for the Kabul Bank fraud had been prosecuted. The Afghan government lost more than $850 million in the bank's collapse.

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