On 5 March, an Afghan court found the former founder and chief executive of Kabul Bank guilty of fraud and sentenced them to five years in prison. Mr. Farnood and Mr. Frozi were also fined $278 million and $530 million respectively, such sums reflecting the amounts that are believed to have been embezzled. A further 19 defendants were found guilty for participating in the unlawful conspiracy. Kabul Bank appears to have been operated as a giant ponzi scheme for a number of years, with depositors' money being smuggled out of the bank with wilful abandon including even in food trays of a commercial airliner owned by the chief architects of the wrongdoing.
The convictions are, of course, a welcome step in Afghanistan's fight against corruption. But the reality is that the prosecution was only brought as a result of pressure from the international community who threatened to withhold billions of dollars in aid if action was not taken.
What remains to be seen is whether the looted funds will be returned to Afghanistan and its people. Apparently, no confiscation orders were issued and it is unclear what legal mechanisms are available to force the culprits to return the stolen money. It is even unclear whether Mr. Farnood and Mr. Frozi will serve any time in an actual prison rather than spend their sentence in the comfortable surroundings of their residences under 'house arrest'. There is a concern that they will be treated favourably because they are alleged to have personal ties to the current President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. It remains to be seen whether other well-connected individuals who received loans from the bank, that allegedly did not need to be repaid, will be prosecuted.