First challenge for Karzai is to approve corruption charges

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's promise to stamp out corruption has come up against its first test with the revelation that indictments against five high-ranking politicians on charges thought to range from embezzlement to money-laundering need only his signature to proceed.

With the accused said to include serving cabinet members, prosecutions would send the strongest signal yet that Mr Karzai is serious about smashing the culture of impunity that has destroyed public confidence in his government.

"We have indictments with sufficient proof against five ministers," Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko said on Wednesday in an interview with Der Spiegel. "Two of them are in the current cabinet and three are former ministers... The President only has to grant his approval, then the trials can proceed."

Mr Aloko added separately that a number of lesser officials faced corruption charges and that successful prosecutions would result in stiff penalties.

Although Afghan law forbids the disclosure of the identities of the figures, there is mounting speculation that one is the Mining minister, Mohammad Ibrahim Adel, who allegedly took a $30m bribe from a Chinese mining firm before awarding it the rights to extract copper from Aynak, one of the largest unexploited deposits of the metal in the world. Mr Adel has fiercely denied the allegation.

Western diplomats said they were pleasantly surprised at the Attorney General's announcement. Although a major crimes task force backed by the UK and US was launched earlier this week, the cases awaiting Mr Karzai's approval have all been brought by prosecutors working directly for Mr Aloko.

"There seems to be more in the pipeline than we were expecting at this particular point," said one official. "It's encouraging to see that that." The new anti-corruption unit, dubbed the "Afghan FBI", has its sights on a number of other high-profile figures but may step in to help Mr Aloko's team trace illegal assets stashed abroad if required.

In yesterday's inauguration speech, Mr Karzai pledged that "those who spread corruption should be tried and prosecuted". Intense international pressure has been exerted on him to clear his cabinet of the warlords whose presence at the highest levels has been partially blamed for Afghanistan's deteriorating security. A new report by Oxfam found that 48 per cent of Afghans questioned pointed to corruption and the ineffectiveness of government as a key cause of conflict.

David Miliband, the British Foreign Minister, who attended Mr Karzai's inauguration, said the President had made a "significant statement but now it is time to deliver... What we need is for words to be turned into deeds. We have now got a very, very clear set of commitments on corruption and we expect him to deliver." Asked about his reaction to Mr Karzai's insistence on being flanked by his vice-presidential running mates, both of whom have been accused of appalling human rights abuses, Mr Miliband said: "What it shows is that we have a very long hill to climb in this country... But we shall be watching what [Mr Karzai] does."

Also of concern to anti-corruption campaigners was Mr Karzai's insistence that the High Office of Oversight, the existing anti-corruption commission, stay in place. Officials have criticised it for lacking the legal foundation to investigate and prosecute cases. Instead, it has to refer most duties to law enforcement agencies which are themselves often part of the problem.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015