An adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai was questioned Tuesday in a corruption probe, the latest chapter in investigations of current and former government officials.
Noorullah Delawari, who denied wrongdoing, told The Associated Press that he was interrogated for three to four hours about a $3 million consulting fee paid several years ago to German-based Lufthansa for its help in working to save the embattled state-owned Ariana airlines.
"Today when I went to the office, there were three people from the attorney general's office in my office and they asked me to go for an investigation and that's when I went," Delawari said in a telephone interview as he drove home from a detention center in Kabul where he was questioned.
Years ago, Delawari, who is a former governor of the nation's central bank, was a member of a commission assigned to see what could be done to improve the financial condition of Ariana. He said authorities have alleged that the $3 million fee paid to Lufthansa was excessive.
"The question was why this contract was signed at such an expense," Delawari said, adding that he didn't view it as excessive because six people worked on the contract for a year.
He said he was interrogated at the lockup where the attorney general's office is holding former Transportation Minister Enayatullah Qasimi, who has been implicated in mismanaging $9 million in government funds for aircraft purchases at Ariana, which flies today.
Confusion surrounds the day's events.
The attorney general's office called an afternoon news conference to discuss "the arrest" of both Delawari and Qasimi. When reporters arrived, however, the attorney general's spokesman, Amanullah Iman, changed the story.
"Mr. Delawari was never arrested," Iman said. "He was taken to the detention center for the investigation of a case ... and now he is back at work."
It is unclear whether there was any initial intent to take Delawari into custody. Perhaps he answered the investigators' questions satisfactorily, Delawari said.
"I would call it detained more than arrested," he said, adding that he was never booked into the detention center.
"It was just _ you may call it interrogation."
Delawari, who is in his mid-60s, is the head of the Afghan Investment Support Agency. The Afghan government set up the agency in September 2003 as a one-stop shop for investors. The agency oversees registration, licensing and promotion of new investments in Afghanistan.
Delawari left Afghanistan in the 1960s and studied in the United States and Britain. He worked at several banks in the United States, including 16 years as vice president of the multinational division of Lloyds Bank of California.
Since returning to Afghanistan in 2002, Delawari has been an adviser to the president. He was governor of Afghanistan's central bank from November 2004 to December 2007.
Currently, he sits on the central bank's governing board, which has been overseeing efforts to untangle years of questionable lending and fraud that nearly caused the collapse last year of Kabul Bank.