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Updated: August 20, 2010 13:13 IST

Presidential aide released on Karzai’s intervention

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai. File photo: AP.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai. File photo: AP.

A close aide of the Afghan President was arrested on corruption charges, but released on the personal intervention of Hamid Karzai.

Mohammad Zia Salehi, the head of the Afghan National Security Council, was arrested last month on charges of soliciting bribes, providing luxury vehicles to presidential allies and over telephonic contacts with the Taliban, the Washington Post reported.

The intervention by Mr. Karzai came after Afghan investigators had begun to pursue corruption cases against his aide and possibly other Karzai allies inside the Presidential palace, the paper said.

It said Salehi’s arrest had been approved by the country’s attorney general and that Mr. Karzai acted directly to secure his aide’s release.

The paper said a commission formed by Mr. Karzai after Salehi was released had concluded that Afghan police, who had carried out the investigation with support from the U.S.—backed law enforcement units, had violated his human rights and were operating outside the constitution.

The U.S. agencies which had worked on the case include Major Crime’s Task Force and sensitive investigative units and Salehi’s arrest followed months of inquiries by the Afghan investigative units, a police team vetted and trained by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The paper said the investigators presented their evidences to the attorney general’s office before carrying out the arrest.

It said Salehi a Pushtun from Wardak province has played a key role in Mr. Karzai’s efforts to win reconciliation with Taliban insurgents.

Quoting Afghan officials, the paper said Salehi was in direct contact with various factions within Taliban and arranged meetings between the Karzai administration and members of Taliban and Hezb—i—islami.

It was unclear why contacts with insurgents had concerned investigators, the paper said, describing Salehi as “one of the most trusted staff members in the presidential palace to do special things“.

Quoting Rahmatullah Nazari, a deputy attorney general, the Post said wiretapped conversation had produced evidence that Salehi had accepted gifts in return for playing a role in opposing corruption investigations against a finance firm, New Ansari, Afghanistan’s largest money transfer business.

The report of arrest and release of a top presidential aide comes in the backdrop of recent disclosures by Financial Times of investigations being launched to probe transfer of huge amounts almost running into millions of dollars of cash from Kabul airport.

The U.S. federal agencies as well as Afghan investigators believe that the massive cash outflow was part of drug and corruption money being diverted to tax havens.

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