MAC: Mines and Communities

Afghan minister accused of massive bribery over Chinese mine

Published by MAC on 2009-11-23
Source: Agence France Presse

We previously posted articles on this site which speculated on the implications of China's investment in a huge new copper mine in Afghanistan.

Will the Aynak project jeopardise current US military interests (NATO's role wasn't mentioned)? Or would it - along with other Chinese involvement  - ultimately serve the avowed aim of stabilising the war-torn country? See:

Since early November, US and British public opinion has moved closer to calling for a withdrawal of forces in Afghanistan and demanding that further troops aren't despatched.

Both western governments claim to be on track to installing a democratic administration which will curb the country's rampant corruption.

However, allegations are now made that the Afghan minister of mines solicited - or at least accepted - a whopping US$30 million dollar bribe to okay the Aynak mine.

Afghan accused of major bribery: report


17 November 2009

WASHINGTON — Afghanistan's minister of mines accepted a 30-million-dollar bribe to award a huge development project to a Chinese state firm, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing a US official.

The revelation comes the same week the Afghan government formed a major crime unit to tackle corruption, and just one day before Hamid Karzai is sworn in as Afghan president for a second term, with the United States pressuring him to rid the war-torn country of its endemic graft and cronyism.

The Post quoted an unnamed US official familiar with military intelligence reports that there was "a high degree of certainty" that an alleged payment of roughly 30 million dollars was made to Minister Mohammad Ibrahim Adel.

The payment, the US official said, took place in Dubai around December 2007 when the China Metallurgical Group Corp (MCC) was awarded a 2.9-billion-dollar contract to exploit the Aynak copper deposit in Logar province, one of the biggest copper deposits in the world.

Last year, Adel told AFP that Aynak has more than 11 million tonnes of copper valued at some 88 billion dollars, and is expected to bring the government 400 million dollars annually in fees and taxes, Adel said.

The bribery allegation, if proved true, would be a major blow to a country whose government is struggling for credibility among an impoverished population.

Mining is one of Afghanistan's few economic bright spots in a nation crippled by a growing Taliban-led insurgency. Significant deposits of copper, iron, gold, oil and gas, and coal -- as well as precious gems such as emeralds and rubies -- are largely untapped, Adel has said.

Afghan and American officials were reportedly outraged at the contract going to MCC and complained that Adel did not give Western firms competing for the bid a fair chance.

And fears of further corruption have grown, with the ministry now reviewing offers for a major iron ore deposit mining project known as Haji Gak, in which MCC is the frontrunner, the Post said.

"This guy has done this already; we're in the same situation again," said the US official.

In an interview with the Post, Adel denied receiving any bribes or illegal payments during his three-year tenure as minister, and said MCC's compensation package -- including an 808-million-dollar bonus payment to Kabul -- was far larger than that of other firms.

"I am responsible for the revenue and benefit of our people," Adel said.

"All the time I'm following the law and the legislation for the benefit of the people."

US and Afghan officials have warned that incompetence and corruption have scared off potential investors.

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