Afghan ministerial candidate Haidari wanted by Interpol for alleged tax evasion after president vows crackdown on corruption

President Ghani said the allegations were not known at the time of nomination

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The Independent Online

A candidate for the position of agriculture minister in Afghanistan is on an Interpol wanted list over tax evasion in Estonia.

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said the allegations were not known at the time that Mohammad Yaqub Haidari, 52, was being considered for the job in the new Cabinet.

Interpol’s website Haidari as wanted in the eastern European country for “large-scale tax evasion and fraudulent conversion” in cases dating back to 2003.

The presidential office was unaware of the legal implications that Haidari is said to be in while nominations were announced on Monday and they are investigating the allegations, the president’s spokesman Nazifullah Salarzai said yesterday.

Although Haidari has been on the wanted list for years, it was not widely known or reported in Afghanistan. He confirmed that he is on the Interpol wanted list but claims he is innocent of the allegations.

He said the taxes were owed not by him but by a person who bought a company from him that did business in Estonia. Haidari is currently trading with a business focused on construction and information technology as well as agricultural products.

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

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.

President Ghani, who was sworn in last year to replace long-time leader Hamid Karzai, has vowed to root out corruption and said he would choose ministers based on their qualifications rather than their connections.

Afghanistan was ranked as the world’s fourth most corrupt country last year by the watchdog Transparency International. It has topped the list in previous years.