Kabul Bank to auction villas on Palm Jumeirah in Dubai

Afghanistan's special tribunal on Kabul Bank, a lender forced into bankruptcy last year, is seeking to expedite the sale assets.

Kabul Bank's properties worth Dh119m on the Palm Jumeirah are scheduled to go under the hammer. Andrew Biraj / Reuters
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Afghanistan's special tribunal on Kabul Bank, a lender forced into bankruptcy last year, is seeking to expedite the sales of bank assets, starting with those in Dubai.

On the top of the list are eight properties on the Palm Jumeirah worth a total of more than Dh119 million (US$32.3m).

The move follows an order by the Afghan president Hamid Karzai that Kabul Bank's assets must be returned or sold in a month. "There was a high-level meeting demanding this issue must be closed as soon as possible pertaining to properties in Dubai," said Noorullah Delawari, the governor of Afghanistan's central bank and a member on the tribunal.

"The receivership has been trying to sell the Dubai assets through real estate agents, but only three have been sold. So in order to expedite the process, it has been decided that the properties will be auctioned through the Dubai Land Department," said Mr Delawari.

Three villas have already been sold: one worth Dh22.5m, another for Dh30.8m, and a house worth Dh10.7m. Eight will be put to auction by Dubai authorities, said Mr Delawari.

There are three other properties with mortgages against them that will need to be cleared, said Mr Delawari.

Kabul Bank experienced a run on deposits last year, after the revelation that shareholders had used it as their personal funding vehicle. The central bank, known as Da Afghanistan Bank, was forced to intervene and appoint a government official as the bank's chief executive.

According to a US report published in March, some $900m in loans were made to bank officers and insiders - including shareholders - with little or no collateral. The figure amounts to 94 per cent of all outstanding loans.

The central bank reported that among the loan recipients was Mahmoud Karzai, the brother of the president, who owned several properties in Dubai.

In June, the tribunal handed out 21 criminal indictments. Among the most notable figures indicted were Sherkhan Farnood, the bank's former chairman, and Khalilullah Frozi, the former chief executive. The charges included embezzlement, money laundering and fraud.

The settlement of Kabul Bank's Dubai assets and others abroad must be satisfied for Afghanistan to renew its credit programme with the IMF.

The IMF called for legislative revisions of the country's banking regulatory framework. Legislation introduced last year included a ban on any shareholder serving in a chief executive or chairman position.