Mullah Omar fled with large cash haul - report


THE US: Mr Abdui Qadez, the deputy manager of the Kandahar branch of Afghanistan's Central Bank, flipped open Account Book No. 17 and ran his finger to the last withdrawal - $3,488,222. He remembers it well.

The money left the bank in a Toyota Landcruiser in a large burlap flour sack topped up with an even bulkier million-dollars-plus of Pakistani rupees.

The date, according to yesterday's Washington Post, was October 16th, and the mullah making the withdrawal had simply presented a cheque from none other than Mullah Mohammed Omar, the country's one-eyed ostensible leader, now on the run. They simply cleared out every cent in the bank.

Once again, turning that same blind eye to standard banking practice, the Taliban leader also withdrew $6 million from the Kabul branch on November 12th, this time without even the courtesy of a cheque.

The money has vanished, and with it, according to one estimate, up to $100 million of the paltry liquid assets of the impoverished state. US officials suspect the cash is now greasing the way for fleeing fighters to obtain safe passage abroad.

In Kandahar, the current branch manager, Mr Fazli Ahmad, has taken over from the mullah who ran the bank in Taliban days. He points out that the cash was official government money. It did not include what are believed to have been sizeable Taliban receipts from opium smuggling, from foreign governments including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, or from Osama bin Laden.

It was a normal monthly balance for the bank, accumulated largely from fees and taxes gathered around Kandahar province. The former clerk has gone without his $30 monthly for the three months. But even transporting the haul across the Afghani mountains may be problematic. The Kabul "withdrawal" included some 18 billion of the local Afghanis, a currency whose largest denomination is 10,000 (25,000 Afghanis = $1) - so the bundle involved at least two million notes, not something easily carried on the back of the motorbike Mr Omar was last reported to be fleeing on.