Hamid Karzai's brother in US corruption probe
Published 28/09/2010 | 12:37
The brother of the Afghan President Hamid Karzai is under investigation by US prosecutors as part of a corruption probe that could complicate Washington's dealings with Kabul.
Mahmoud Karzai, Mr Karzai's eldest brother who is a US citizen, has denied any wrongdoing, insisting that his estimated $12m (€8.9m) results from legitimate business activities.
Mr Karzai is suspected of tax evasion, racketeering and extortion. However, he said that his sole interest was in "rebuilding Afghanistan" and the investigation would establish that. "How many people do you think they have on me? Four, five, 10, 20? They won't find anything. I'm just a businessman."
Mr Karzai said in a recent interview that he was preparing to amend his earnings on his US tax returns and that he would willingly disclose all his financial details to federal prosecutors.
He owns four properties in the US, including his home in Baltimore, part of a housing development in Kandahar and rented houses in Dubai and Kabul.
The office of prosecutors in the southern district of New York has a track record of charging and seeking he extradition of suspects across the world. Any charges against Mahmoud Karzai could greatly complicate President Barack Obama's efforts to work with his brother's government.
American officials believe that part of the reason why the Karzai government is seen as illegitimate by many Afghans, particularly in the Pashtun south, is its alleged involvement in corruption, narcotics and nepotism.
Ignoring corruption risks undermining the confidence of ordinary Afghans in rule from Kabul. But a crackdown could lead to the Karzai government to further distance itself from Washington.