Sunday, June 16, 2024

Money Smugglers Use VIP Routes to Evade Inspection at Kabul Airport

Immigration News

Mohammad Haroon Alim
Mohammad Haroon Alim
Mohammad Haroon Alim holds a BBA degree from Kardan University. He works as a sub-editor for Khaama Press.

In a report published on January 2021, Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said, that after the collapse of the Taliban regime, cash smuggling out of Afghanistan has become a serious concern.

“Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, cash smuggling out of Afghanistan’s international air and land ports has been a concern for the Afghan government, the United States, and the international community. A 2011 Congressional Research Service study estimated that up to $4.5 billion was smuggled out of the country in a single year. According to a 2015 study by Integrity Watch Afghanistan, 65 percent of all cash leaving Afghanistan was “illegally earned, transferred” or used. A significant portion of that cash is tied to the opium trade, of which Afghanistan produced 84 percent of the world’s supply from 2015 to 2020. Up to 85 percent of this poppy production occurs in areas controlled or influenced by the Taliban, and the drug trade finances as much as half of the group’s activities in Afghanistan”. John F. Sopko Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction indicated.

SIGAR tweeted that VIP passengers go through six checkpoints and inspection sited, while and that VVIPS are not screened at all.

According to the report between 2018 and 2019 custom officials have stopped 9 individuals suspected of smuggling cash out of Afghanistan, but only 2 of the cases were completely solved.

SIGAR report indicates that VIP passengers are directly transported to the VIP terminal, bypassing the first four inspection sites.

VIP terminal makes travelers skip security stages that a non-VIP traveler must go through before boarding.

Very very important people (VVIP) passengers mostly bypass all security procedures, as they are given the privilege to be dropped on the tarmac near the planes.

It is reported that the VIP terminal does not have a customs office, money counting machines, customs declaration forms, and even the area has no signs of letting the passengers know about the cash declaration requirement, threshold, or export limitation rules.

Officials in the airport said, that VIP/VVIP passengers carry more than $10,000 an amount of below $20,000 exporting limits and that the money is counted in the non-VIP terminal counter, but the team could not determine whether custom rules are being enforced at the airport.

SIGAR findings show, that cash counting machines are not regularly used even though after they are installed, and are not connected to the internet, two of these machines were in the non-VIP passenger departure area, and a third was near the non-VIP entrance.

Following the inspection, it is reported that airport personnel in the departure area count not operate two of the money counting machines.

Only one Cash counting machine was operating only close to the arrival entrance, and strict cash control is required in the departure area a place mostly vulnerable to cash smuggling, SIGAR reported.

Afghan government could not reduce the flow of cash out of Afghanistan, at the Hamid Karzai international airport, and weakness in the inspections still requires a lot of work.

SIGAR suggested two actions for improving screening procedures at the Hamid Karzai International Airport:

“1. Fully integrate cash counting machines with functioning internet capability– into the normal customs process both at the non-VIP and VIP terminals to better ensure that all declared and detected currency is counted, and serial numbers captured, for use by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan (FinTRACA) and its international partners”.

2. Strengthen controls at the VIP terminal by requiring all VIP and VVIP passengers to fill out customs declaration forms, and having airport staff count any cash declared and send serial numbers to FinTRACA”, SIGAR suggested.

SIGAR in its recent report indicated that customs officials rarely use the cash counting machines, and do not keep the record nor have sent serial number data to the authorities, adding that VIP and VVIP passengers having political influence were exempted from inspection procedures.

SIGAR reported, “We found that the cash counting machines had been installed, but are not in regular use or connected to the Internet. Two were in the non-VIP passengers’ departure area, and a third was near the non-VIP passengers’ arrival entrance. There were no cash counting machines in the VIP terminal. One of the Afghan officials present during our inspection said there have been a few instances of VIP/VVIPs transporting large amounts of cash out of the country, but “it rarely happens… as they are high officials and prestigious businessmen,” implying that they do not engage in cash smuggling. However, in August 2020, staff in the customs office reported to SIGAR that a member of Parliament in the VIP terminal tried to smuggle around 200,000 Euros (approximate value of $238,000) in cash out of the airport”.

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