Corruption trial opens in Afghanistan

The trial of a former civil servant accused of carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Saudi Arabia for a government minister in Afghanistan opened on Monday.

Last Updated: May 04, 2010, 00:12 AM IST

Kabul: The trial of a former civil servant
accused of carrying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes
from Saudi Arabia for a government minister in Afghanistan
opened on Monday.

Mohammad Noor worked as an aide to a former minister for
hajj and religious affairs who is charged with taking bribes
from a foreign catering company during last year`s Hajj
pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Prosecutors say the former civil servant collected the
bribe money for his boss, former minister Mohammad Siddiq
Chakari, and took it back to Afghanistan. He was arrested on
arrival at the airport with 362,000 dollars.

"Mohammad Noor was responsible for finalising criminal
deals, collecting the bribe money and transfering it to
specific individuals," prosecutor Mohammad Razaq Totakhail
told the court in Kabul.

Totakhail said Noor had confessed to taking more than
half a million dollars in bribe money to Chakari on previous
trips.

Official corruption is endemic in impoverished, war-torn
Afghanistan and Noor`s trial is seen as important ground work
for bringing Chakari -- currently in Britain -- to justice.

Afghan authorities have issued an arrest warrant for
Chakari and are seeking his extradition on corruption charges.

In court, Noor admitted carrying money from Saudi Arabia
to Kabul for Chakari, but said that he did not know where it
had come from.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has made a corruption
crackdown one of his top priorities and has established a
special tribunal to try corrupt officials, including
ministers.

PTI