Afghan authorities are seeking a former bank employee accused of transferring $1.1 million to relatives’ accounts and then fleeing the country, the Associated Press reports.
The suspect, twenty-two-year-old Shokofa Salehi, worked for Azizi Bank in Kabul for three years before disappearing two months ago, according to Azizi CEO Inayatullah Fazli. He claims that she and nine other people were involved in the crime and that, “they are a mafia group.”
Interpol ‘red’ notice issued against Afghan woman
Interpol has issued a red notice so that Salehi can be apprehended if found. Afghan authorities say that she may have traveled to India under the name Samira, but no one has seen her recently. Two other suspects in the case have been detained in Dubai, where they allegedly invested in several business ventures, and police in both India and Dubai are assisting their Afghani counterparts in the search for Salehi.
Salehi’s parents are thought to have traveled with her to India and then returned to Afghanistan afterwards, and they are also considered to be suspects in the case.
Afghan bank’s credibility stomped
While the sum of money is small compared to other crimes (including $861 million in fraudulent loans that caused Kabul Bank to collapse) this is another blow against the Afghan banking sector while it is trying to restore its credibility. From the standpoint of a potential investor, the idea that a young employee with just a few years on the job could steal so much money without tipping anyone off doesn’t speak well for oversight and strong business processes in general. If, instead, the fraud turns out to be the work of a larger group, then one has to wonder if this is the kind of group you would want to trust with your own money.
It’s also interesting that while the Ponzi-like schemes at Kabul Bank were met with two five-year sentences and a lot of slapped wrists, a woman accused of stealing about a thousandth as much money is being pursued with an international dragnet involving at least four separate police agencies. It seems that not only is the Afghan banking sector a dangerous place to do business, the country’s law enforcement priorities are a bit off kilter.