Afghan cabinet nominee wanted by Interpol for tax evasion

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 17, 2015 1:40 PM

By Hamid Shalizi

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's nominee for agriculture minister in the new cabinet is on an Interpol wanted list for tax evasion in Estonia, a fact Ghani's spokesman said was unknown to his office at the time of his nomination.

Interpol's website lists Mohammad Yaqub Haidari, 52, as wanted in Estonia for "large-scale tax evasion, fraudulent conversion" in cases dating back to 2003.

A spokesman for Ghani, Nazifullah Salarzai, said Saturday that the presidential office was unaware Haidari had any legal troubles but was investigating.

Although Haidari has been on the wanted list for years, it was not widely known or reported in Afghanistan.

Ghani, who was sworn in as president last year to replace long-time leader Hamid Karzai, has vowed to root out widespread corruption and said he would choose his ministers based on their qualifications, not their connections.

His nominations were announced on Monday, after a wait of more than three months.

Haidari confirmed Saturday that he is on the Interpol wanted list but insisted he is innocent.

"I am being targeted by a political conspiracy. When you enter the world of business and politics, this is what happens," he told Reuters.

He said that the taxes were owed not by him but by a person who bought a company from him that did business in Estonia.

A biography of Haidari compiled by the Afghanistan Analysts Network cited a recent television interview in which he said he once ran an agricultural import-export company that did business in eastern Europe and Russia.

His current business is focused on construction and information technology as well as agricultural products, the profile said.

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)