The secretariat of the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the Afghan parliament, on Monday confirmed the arrest of MP Abdul Hamid Sharifi at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on charges of smuggling 200,000 euros.
The news about the arrest of the lawmaker broke on August 31.
The head of the Wolesi Jirga secretariat, Abdulqadir Zazai, said that Sharifi was released based on Article 102 of the Afghan constitution and that he has been referred to judicial institutions.
Article 102 of the constitution states: “If a member of the National Assembly is accused of a crime, the responsible official shall inform the House of which the accused is a member, and the accused shall be legally prosecuted. In case of an evident crime, the responsible official shall legally pursue and arrest the accused without the permission of the House of which the accused is a member.”
According to government figures, the illegal transfer of over 600 shipments of cash, gold and precious stones worth $11 million has been prevented in the country’s airports over the last seven months.
According to data by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan (FinTRACA), which operates under the Central Bank, the authority prevented the illegal transfer--in and out-- of over 2,780 shipments of currency, gold and other precious stones worth more than $50.3 million in 2019.
Based on airport regulations, each passenger can carry up to $10,000. With a license, a businessperson can carry up to $20,000.
The news of the MP's arrest was published on the Facebook page of Hamid Karzai International Airport. Hours later, MP Sharifi wrote that he wanted to travel to the UAE and that he had informed a security company at the airport about the money that he had with him.
The Ministry of Interior Affairs confirmed Sharifi’s remarks.
“The crime department of the Ministry of Interior Affairs contacted us and said one member of the Wolesi Jirga named Mr. Sharifi has been arrested with 200,000 euros when he was beginning a trip to the UAE,” Zazai said.
The spokesman of the Ministry of Interior and Sharifi did not comment on the matter.
“We recently received information that a number of lawmakers are smuggling money and buying gold and returning… It is illegal and horrific that such a thing happens from the house (legislative body) of the nation,” said Senator Afzal Shamil.
Not only the airports but the country’s border crossing points are used for the illegal transfer of money, which is sent to countries in the region. In Herat, officials of the local chamber of commerce say at least $1 million is smuggled to neighboring countries daily.
“They have transfers of more than two million dollars. Those who are involved are mafia. They answer to no one,” said Abdullah Dashti, deputy head of Herat's chamber of commerce and investment.
Researchers said that a lack of information about the income of individuals and businesses in the country is a key challenge facing efforts to prevent money laundering.
“Such transfers are one of the main reasons behind the endemic corruption in Afghanistan,” said Ibrahim Jabarkhil, a researcher at Integrity Watch Afghanistan.