News - Afghanistan
President Ashraf Ghani suspended six top officials from the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs on charges of corruption Thursday night. The investigation will now be handed over to the Attorney General's office.
In the near-term, Ghani has requested travel bans be issued for the officials to ensure they do not escape prosecution.
However, sources have told TOLOnews that at least one of the suspects has already fled the country across the Torkham border with Pakistan. In addition, some of the money allegedly embezzled from the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs has been transferred abroad.
Ghani met with officials from the ministry Thursday night. He issued suspensions for the following individuals: Ahmad Shah Hemat, the head of the central housing department; Mohammad Amin, the head of the real estate and accommodations department; Ahmad Nawaz Bakhtyari, the head of the housing enterprise department;
Gul Rahim Zyarmal, the head of planning and project manager for the 5th Macrorayan; Syed Amanullah Sadat, the head of the finance department; and Mohammad Amin Qane, the head of the apartments and rentals department.
"Fighting corruption constitutes the president's top working priority," presidential spokesman Hamdullah Muhib said on Friday. "The six individuals who are accused of large scale corruption have been introduced to the Attorney General and the relevant department has been assigned the task of investigating their cases," he added.
The allegations leveled against the ministry officials include taking bribes in exchange for signatures on new housing projects, dolling out apartments to high ranking government officials and their relatives and constructing sub-standard apartments in order to pocket ministry funds.
"Corruption exists in the contracting of the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs; secondly, projects are completed at a low quality; and, thirdly, most of the apartments are distributed to family members and relatives of officials of the concerned ministry," a former employee of the ministry named Mohammad Kabir Quraishi told TOLOnews.
Highlighting the high-profile nature of the case, the Attorney General spoke about it with media on Friday. He said the six individuals are under investigation for abuse of office.
"The individuals are accused of corruption and misusing their official positions, the attorneys will start working on their cases tomorrow [Saturday]," Attorney General Noor Habib Jalal said.
Lending further credence to his claims of being tough on corruption, President Ghani this week also moved to suspend the acting chief and deputies of the Afghan Investment Support Agency (AISA) on corruption charges.
"The president has suspended the job of the acting chief and deputies of AISA and has asked the ministers not to meddle in the appointments," spokesman Muhib said. "The Minister of Commerce was assigned the duty of recommending some names for AISA chief."
Combating corruption has been touted as a top priority of the national unity government. This week's developments mark the third major push by Ghani to cleanse his administration's ranks since the Ministry of Defense (MoD) fuel contract and Kabul Bank cases.