Following reports on Afghan senator Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, who pled guilty to “theft of public money” in the United States, the Presidential Palace spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said crime is a personal matter and that if Nuristani has done any illegal activity in the US, the judicial institutions of that country can decide on it.
Nuristani pled guilty in a US federal court on December 11 to “theft of public money,” admitting that he received over $100,000 in government benefits by concealing foreign travel and residency between July 2015 and December 2018, according to a statement by the US Department of Justice.
According to the statement, Nuristani admitted that he applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) from the Social Security Administration in July 2015.
Nuristani admitted to concealing and repeatedly lying to the Social Security Administration about his foreign travel and residency, and to receiving $27,492.44 in SSI payments and to “causing a loss of $73,090.34 to the State of California for health care payments and services as a result of his fraud,” the statement added.
Nuristani served as both the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission and as an Afghan senator even as he received SSI at his claimed address in El Cajon, California, the US statement said.
He has also served as the governor of the western province of Herat and he was appointed as a member of the Meshrano Jirga, Afghanistan’s senate, in September 2018.
As a part of his plea agreement, Nuristani has agreed to make full restitution to the Social Security Administration and the California Department of Health Care Services, the statement said. He also faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at his sentencing on March 9, 2020.
But an official of Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s office welcomed the move by the US federal court and said his place in Afghanistan was also in prison but his case was treated politically, and he was appointed as a senator.
“He (Nuristani) was appointed as an adviser instead of being sent to prison and he was appointed as a senator instead of being sent to prison,” Abdullah Abdullah’s spokesman Mujib Rahimi said, continuing: “We are happy that someone has been convicted of fraud and that one of Afghanistan’s ‘big traitors’ has been convicted at least in the United States and we hope that he is given a big punishment.”
In September 2018. the Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center or the ACJC – which has been established to assess big corruption cases – sentenced Nuristani to a one-year imprisonment and a fine of one million Afghanis for misuse of authority, but the verdict was not acted on because he serves as a member of Afghanistan’s Meshrano Jirga, the Upper House of the parliament.
Unconfirmed reports recently emerged that President Ghani had allocated Afs2.4 million for Nuristani’s allowance and house rent from Code 91 – which is an emergency budget allocation.
“We should say regretfully that the Afghan government is treating many issues politically,” said Zahir Salangi, an MP. “We hope that such cases are assessed thoroughly.”
“Any Afghan who has undermined the will of the people of Afghanistan should be sued and should be referred to Afghanistan’s courts so that we become a little hopeful about the country’s future,” said Zabihullah Atiq, an MP.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI), for which Nuristani has applied, is a United States program that provides cash assistance to individuals residing in the United States who are either aged 65 or older, blind, or disabled.