US investigators suspect that high-ranking Afghan officials are smuggling US aid money out of the country and putting it in financial safe havens abroad. More than $3 billion in cash has been flown out of Kabul International Airport in the past three years, the Wall Street Journal reports, and though it’s all been declared and legal, the sum is so large that US officials assume that some of it must be pilfered US gifts, or drug money.
“It’s not like they grow money on trees here,” said one investigator. The money has all been funneled through “hawalas,” traditional Muslim money transfer businesses. So far, officials suspect Vice President Mohammed Fahim and Hamid Karzai’s brother, Mahmoud, in the scheme, but both deny it. “Yes, millions of dollars are leaving this country, but it is all taken by politicians. Bribes, corruption, all of it,” Mahmoud Karzai says. “Let’s find out who is taking it. Let’s not go on rumors.”