Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) on Friday strongly criticized the acquittal of Ahmad Shah Hemat, the former head of the central housing department of the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs, who was accused of being involved in corruption.
In May 2015, President Ashraf Ghani suspended six top officials from the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs on charges of corruption, including Ahmad Shah Hemat.
Other suspects were Mohammad Amin, the head of the real estate and accommodations department; Ahmad Nawaz Bakhtyari, the head of the housing enterprise department; Gul Rahim Zyarmal, the head of planning and project manager for the 5th Macrorayan; Syed Amanullah Sadat, the head of the finance department; and Mohammad Amin Qane, the head of the apartments and rentals department.
Hemat was among the main suspects in the case, but he has returned to his job after the Attorney General said that there is not sufficient evidence to prove he is guilty of graft.
Although the Attorney General’s office has said that Hemat was aquitted over lack of evidence, Integrity Watch Afghanistan has accused the Afghan government of influencing the case.
The allegations levelled against the ministry officials include taking bribes in exchange for signatures on new housing projects, doling out apartments to high-ranking government officials and their relatives, and constructing sub-standard apartments in order to pocket ministry funds.
“People whose position is higher than chief, such as the deputies and the former ministers of the Ministry of Urban Development Affairs, have also been accused of having a role in this case, but their cases were never dealt with on time and in a neutral way by the legal and judicial institutions,” said Naser Taimoori, a member of IWA.
“Unfortunately, its not only about Hemat—there are thousands of others who have turned the entire government and the anti-corruption efforts to zero,” said Ramazan Bashardost, a member of Afghan parliament.
Meanwhile, the son of another suspect, who has avoided a jail term, has also criticized the release of his father’s colleague and accuses the government of adopting a double-standard policy towards the case.
“This case has been influenced by bias, injustice and politics—justice has not been considered in this case,” said Khalid Qani, the son of Mohammad Amin Qane.
The Ministry of Urban Development Affairs has not commented on the topic.
But the Attorney General’s office says that Hemat was acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence.
“In relation to Mr. Hemat, the prosecutors did not manage to find sufficient evidence,” said Jamshid Rasuli, AGO spokesman.
“Addressing all cases with a high standard is a key principle for us,” said Latif Mahmoud, deputy spokesman for President Ghani.
After the Kabul Bank bankruptcy case, corruption in the Khwaja Rawash and Tahia e Maskan Township projects was the second largest corruption case for the Afghan government. But critics, and anti-corruption monitoring organizations, say that the government failed to assess these cases authentically or in a timely way.