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Embezzlement in Afghan customs; $1 billion annually lost to graft

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(Last Updated On: July 15, 2020)

More than $1 billion annually is being lost to embezzlement from the Afghan customs revenues. 

Integrity Watch of Afghanistan said Tuesday local tyrants have embezzled millions of dollars from Herat customs, adding that the government has no plan to prevent stealing of public treasury.

A statistic shared by officials from Herat customs shows that the customs have more than 30 billion AFN incomes per year but less than 20 billion AFN had been collected in the government’s account.

Since 1390, the Persian calendar, the Ministry of Finance and Herat customs have recorded annual revenue figures as follow:

In 1390, Herat Customs had 16 billion AFN incomes. The revenues in 1392 declined to 13 billion AFN and decreased to 9 billion AFN in 1393 compared to the previous years.

The statistics show 12 billion AFN incomes in 1394, while the figure increased to 20 billion AFN in 1396 and 1397. On 1398 the incomes once again declined to 16 billion AFN.

Meanwhile, in Twitter and Facebook posts a senior official of Herat customs has also shared daily incomes of the organization for the current year: On March 4, daily income was 136 million AFN, on July 8 the revenue was 119 million AFN and on July 9 the income was 122 million AFN, according to the statistics.

The incomes of the organization reportedly could reach 33 billion AFN in the current year, figures show.

The Ministry of Finance, however, says not only the customs of Herat but also no customs across the country have the same revenue per year, due to a high volume of goods.

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Private sector welcomes peace move which could bring enormous investment opportunities

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(Last Updated On: August 11, 2020)

Peace in Afghanistan would provide enormous opportunities for local and international businesses to invest in the country, in turn boosting the economy and aiding in its overall development. 

Afghan business owners and leaders in the private sector have said the war has created major obstacles for investors in the country over the past 19 years. 

Following President Ashraf Ghani’s decree, issued on Monday afternoon, to release the remaining 400 prisoners so as to pave the way for peace talks, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) urged all warring parties to seize the opportunity to bring about peace so as to improve the country’s dismal economic climate.

“We welcome the Loya Jirga’s decision to release Taliban prisoners, which could have a positive impact on the country’s economic growth,” said Khanjan Alokozai, an ACCI member said. 

Officials at the Afghanistan Chamber of Mines and Industries seconded this and said peace in Afghanistan would not only increase investment opportunities but also create much-needed jobs. 

“With the release of the prisoners, our hope is that dialogue between Afghans will begin, as this will increase investment in the country,” said Sakhi Ahmad Paiman, deputy director of the Chamber of Mines and Industries.

Ghani’s decree comes a day after the consultative Loya Jirga voted in favor of releasing the hardcore Taliban insurgents, as per the Doha agreement between the US and Taliban in February – which was one condition that needed to be fulfilled before intra-Afghan peace talks could start.

Meanwhile, economic experts are also optimistic about the opportunity for peace and for what is hoped will be the resultant economic growth in the country.

Hakimullah Siddiqui, an economist, said: “Both sides of the war must seize the opportunity to stabilize and grow the country economically, in order to increase economic opportunities.”

Other economists said peace would open up vast opportunities for investments in all sectors, including mining, agriculture, services, energy, and manufacturing. 

Talks are expected to officially begin on Sunday, in Doha, Qatar, between government and the Taliban.

The Afghan government’s negotiating team is expected to leave Kabul on Wednesday.

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MTN to quit Afghanistan, along with other Middle Eastern countries

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2020)

MTN Group will exit its operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan to become an Africa-only-focused telecommunications operator.

The group said in a statement on Thursday that “MTN has resolved to simplify its portfolio and focus on its pan-African strategy and will, therefore, be exiting its Middle Eastern assets in an orderly manner over the medium term.” 

The group is already in “advanced discussions” to sell its 75 percent stake in its Syrian subsidiary, CEO Rob Shuter said in a call with journalists. It is negotiating with TeleInvest, the 25% owner of the Syrian business, about the sale.

Shuter said the initial focus will be on exiting its operations in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. However, it also plans to divest of its 49 percent of its stake in MTN Irancell in time.

News of the Middle East and Afghanistan exit comes after a lawsuit was filed in the US in April this year that claimed MTN and several other Western businesses aided terrorist organizations in activities carried out against the United States in the region.

Filed on behalf of American service members, civilians, and their families, who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan, the complaint alleged that MTN paid over $100 million to al-Qaeda and the Taliban so its towers would not be destroyed.

The lawsuit also claimed that MTN would switch off these towers at night, and in doing so, hampered US intelligence operations.

Mybroadband.co.za reported that MTN previously filed a motion to dismiss the original lawsuit, because it said the court lacks jurisdiction over MTN, which does not operate in the United States, and because the complaint does not allege any conduct by MTN that would have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Following an amendment of the complaint by the plaintiffs in June this year, the operator now anticipates filing another motion to dismiss on largely the same grounds.

“MTN remains of the view that it conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and will defend its position where necessary,” the operator said.

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Air Arabia Abu Dhabi launches new service to Kabul and Dhaka

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has announced the introduction of two new destinations — Kabul in Afghanistan and Dhaka in Bangladesh – with direct flights from Abu Dhabi commencing on August 7.

Initially there will be three flights a week from Abu Dhabi to Kabul, on a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

 

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi was formed following an agreement by Etihad Airways and Air Arabia to establish Abu Dhabi’s first low-cost carrier that follows the business model of Air Arabia and complements the services of Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi thereby catering to the growing low-cost travel market segment in the region.

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi started its operations in July 2020 with flights to Alexandria and Sohag in Egypt from Abu Dhabi International Airport.

 

 

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