Afghanistan's Ashraf Ghani did not flee with millions of dollars, report says

Former president left Afghanistan as the Taliban completed a lightning takeover of the country last year

Afghanistan's former president Ashraf Ghani. AP
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When then-president Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan on August 15 last year, a rumour followed him into exile: that he had taken millions of dollars of cash with him.

Mr Ghani has long denied the allegations, dismissing them as "completely and categorically false".

It now appears he has backing from a key US government watchdog that looks set to at least partially vindicate him.

In an interim report due to be filed with the US Congress on Tuesday but obtained early by Politico, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction said Mr Ghani and his senior advisers might have taken some money with them as they fled Kabul for Uzbekistan.

The president's departure came as the Taliban completed their takeover of Afghanistan after 20 years of western intervention.

But the amount of money was far less than the $169 million in state funds that Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan had accused Mr Ghani of fleeing with.

"Although Sigar found that some cash was taken from the grounds of the palace and loaded on to these helicopters, evidence indicates that this number did not exceed $1m and may have been closer in value to $500,000," the Sigar report states, according to the version published by Politico.

"Most of this money was believed to have come from several Afghan government operating budgets normally managed at the palace."

A helicopter flies over Kabul after the Taliban's takeover in 2021. AFP

Sigar said in the report that it had examined other examples of alleged theft by senior Afghan officials as the government collapsed, including tens of millions of dollars from the operating budget of the National Directorate of Security.

"Although there appears to have been ample opportunity and effort to plunder Afghan government coffers, at this time Sigar does not have sufficient evidence to determine with certainty whether hundreds of millions of dollars were removed from the country by Afghan officials as the government collapsed or whether any stolen money was provided by the United States," the report reads.

A message left with Sigar late on Monday was not immediately returned.

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Updated: June 06, 2022, 10:43 PM