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$719,000 embezzled in construction of Afghan embassy wall

30 Mar 2021 - 15:15
30 Mar 2021 - 15:15

KABUL (Pajhwok): The Attorney General Office (AGO) has accused presidential advisor Mohammad Humayun Qayyumi, Afghan Ambassador in Washington Roya Rahmani and, a former advisor Shah Mohammad Sargand of embezzling more than $719,000 in the construction of the Afghan embassy wall.

Pajhwok Afghan News reported on July 11, 2020, that the Afghan embassy in the United States had reconstructed its boundary wall measuring 70 meters at a cost of around $1,825,839 while rejecting an economical offer of $88,000 for the rebuilding of the same wall.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), denying the report, promised referring the matter to the Supreme Audit Institution for a thorough investigation.

After Pajhwok released the report, the Wolesi Jirga and Meshrano Jirga introduced Qayyumi, former minister of finance, Yama Nizami advisor to the MoF and Ambassador Roya Rahmani  to the AGO.

The case has been investigated by the Civil Prosecutor Office of the Anti-Corruption and Justice Center (ACJC).

The prosecutor office wrote on March 3 that the accused — Sargand, Rahmani and Qayyumi) — were involved in the embezzlement of $719,220, and they should be punished under Articles 388, 391 and 403 of the Penal Code.

Ahmad Fahim Qawim, spokesman for the Supreme Court, confirmed to Pajhwok that the matter, which had reached the court, was returned to the AGO to address the shortcomings in investigations. It has not been returned to the Supreme Court so far.

The prosecutor office wrote the construction of the wall lacked transparency. The total length of the wall was 22.86 cubic meters. The contract involved a high price that was not in line with the volume of work.

“High-priced deals with several companies were immediately approved by the National Procurement Authority (NPA). This should been re-evaluated, but this has not been done and no remorse was shown in the construction of the wall.”

According to the prosecutor office, six companies had offered bids for the wall’s construction. A IS firm offered the lowest bid ($915,000). However, the National Procurement Commission (NPC).

In line with directives from former finance minister Humayun Qayyumi approved a bid of more than $1.6 million from the KADCON Company.

For building the wall, KCE Company was paid nearly $65,000 for technical investigation, ECS Company received more than $12,000 for the soil test, KCS was given $40,000 for technical advice and DLA Piper got $235,000 for legal consultation.

The source added the embassy had hired the DLA Piper Company in an “irrational” manner against $20,000, which is a major threat to a political foundation.

The anti-corruption prosecutor office, after a contract with the Afghan embassy in the US, said that MoF had entered into an agreement with DLA Piper for legal advice, so that the embassy could regulate its relations with the firm.

According to the source, VIKA Company received $21,550 for survey while KCE was paid $115,00 for engineering structure services.

“The Afghan embassy in the US has chosen a high-priced company for no reason. On the other hand, removing Barakatullah Rahmati from the selection process and replacing him with the son-in-law of Sargand (Haris Ansari) is also directly linked to corruption,” it explained.

The prosecutor office said NPC had decided MoF would provide the necessary funds for the construction of the wall and take steps in this regard, including the handover of responsibility for technical advice and implementation of the project to Shah Mohammad Sargand.

As part of investigations, Rahmani, Nizami and foreign ministry property manager Ajmal Hamidi were summoned. But only Hamidi appeared before prosecutors.

The source quoted Hamidi as saying: “Under the NPC decision, procurement for the construction of the wall and its technical implementation and evaluation responsibilities had been given to Sargand, who carried out the work in coordination with the embassy. He must be asked for further explanation.

“The prosecutor’s office has asked MoFA for information regarding the case. The ministry, however, linked everything to Sargand,” the prosecutor’s office added.

It also quoted Sargand as saying: “I don’t have a job in Afghanistan, I visited the Afghan embassy wall in Washington only once for an assessment; I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know what is legal and what is illegal. But technically speaking, the wall is a necessity.”

On September 2020, President Ashraf Ghani fired 17 of his advisors, including Sargand, and abolished the positions they held.

But Sargand told Pajhwok he was not involved in financing the project and only provided technical advice to the president on the construction of the wall.

Former finance minister Qayyumi told the prosecutor’s office he had only included the issue of the wall construction in the agenda of the NPC meeting due to pressure from the embassy. He claimed the president had instructed NPA to accelerate the project.

He added: “But that doesn’t mean there should be a slowdown in evaluation of the process.”

In order to find more details, the prosecutor office shared four other inquiries via e-mail with Sargand and Qayyumi, but they did not respond. MoFA wrote about Rahmani that she was sick and needed a week to respond.

Earlier, Pajhwok contacted Rahmani via WhatsApp for comments on the issue. However, she has not yet responded to Pajhwok’s queries.

The persecutor office wrote: “Important note: Former legal adviser to MoF Yama Nizami has not appeared for investigations. A legal decision should be made in this regard.”

Article 25 of the constitution says: “Innocence is the original state. The accused shall be innocent until proven guilty by the order of an authoritative court.”

sa/mud

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