Kabul Bank sent cash abroad via airline food trays

Millions of dollars from Kabul Bank were spirited out of Afghanistan — some smuggled in airline food trays — to bank accounts in more than two dozen countries, according to an independent review released on Wednesday about massive fraud that led to the collapse of the nation's largest financial institution.

The report by the Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee offers new details about how the men at Kabul Bank and their friends and relatives got rich off $861 million in fraudulent loans in what the International Monetary Fund has called a Ponzi scheme.

The 87-page report points to poor oversight by Afghan banking regulators, political interference in the criminal investigation and activities by a special judicial tribunal hearing the case that it said were "well outside the legal norms of criminal procedure.''

The report said Afghan authorities learned in late 2009 that "Kabul Bank was moving money through food trays'' on flights operated by Pamir Airways, a multi-million-dollar Afghan airline that was established with loans from the bank and has since gone out of business.

The report stated that 10 Pamir Airways pilots were paid $320,000 in salaries between March 2008 and November 2010 under the description of "pilots of cash delivery.''

An official privy to the report said as much as $900 million was moved out of the country through electronic transfers between March 2007 and April 2011. That money, the official said, ended up in bank accounts in 28 countries, including the UAE, Latvia, China, Britain, Turkey and the US.

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