Karzai Adviser Arrested for Embezzlement


Afghan authorities on Tuesday arrested a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai on embezzlement charges, the office of the attorney general said Tuesday.

The arrest of Noorullah Delawari, who is a former governor of the Afghan central bank, comes a day after police in Kabul detained a former minister in Karzai's government over the misuse of public funds.

"Noorullah Delawari has been arrested on charges of embezzlement and corruption," Amanullah Iman, a spokesman for the office, told Agence France Presse, without giving any further details.

A government official who asked not to be named said the case was linked to that of former transport minister Inayatullah Qasimi, who was arrested on Monday.

Qasimi faces charges of misusing public funds in relation to the purchase of two aircraft for the Afghan national airline, Ariana, which the attorney general's office said lost the government more than $9 million.

Delawari is also accused of embezzling $300,000 from the Afghan central bank, the official said.

He served as governor of the bank between 2004 and 2007, and is still on its board of directors as well as being the head of the Afghan Investment Support Agency (AISA), set up to encourage investment in the country.

Afghanistan is one of the world's most corrupt countries, ranked only just ahead of lawless Somalia in a list compiled by global watchdog Transparency International.

Karzai's government is under intense pressure from its Western backers to crack down on rampant graft that pervades all sectors of Afghan society.

A spokesman for the president confirmed Delawari was a senior economic adviser to Karzai, but said he was not aware of the arrest.

Delawari returned to Afghanistan from the United States, where he worked in private banking, after the 2001 fall of the Taliban.

In 2003 he founded the AISA, serving as its leader until he took over at the helm of the central bank a year later.

Rahmatullah Nazari, Afghanistan's deputy attorney general said in November that about 20 senior Karzai government officials, including former ministers, were being investigated over corruption charges.

But action has yet to be taken and there have been allegations that Karzai has blocked investigations to protect those closest to him.

Last November, the government dropped corruption charges against another top Karzai aide, Mohammad Zia Salehi, who was arrested by the US-backed Major Crimes Task Force after he was caught on a wiretap soliciting a bribe.

A government press conference on the latest two arrests has been scheduled for later Tuesday.