ANJU calls for Raheen's trial on graft charges
KABUL (PAN): The Afghanistan National Journalists Union (ANJU) on Tuesday called for Minister of Information and Culture Syed Makhdoom Raheen to be prosecuted for allegedly embezzling a $1 million donation for preserving the country’s cultural heritage.
A US-based newspaper, The Daily Beast, published an article last month, quoting unnamed officials as saying Raheen had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with wealthy Indian philanthropist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Madanjeet Singh in 2003.
In the document Singh and UNESCO pledged to donate $1 million to the ministry to upgrade Kabul’s dilapidated Cultural Heritage Centre and to train Afghans on preserving the country’s magnificent artifacts and antiques.
But instead of using the money to protect and promote the country’s cultural identity, Raheen seems to have embezzled all or most of Singh’s donation, according to three former Ministry of Culture officials who worked with Raheen.
They told The Daily Beast Raheen secretly deposited the money directly into his personal account in Kabul’s Bank-i-Millie Afghan in 2003, and not into an account in the name of the South Asia Foundation, Singh’s philanthropic organization, as stipulated in the MoU.
Addressing a press conference in Kabul, ANJU chief Fahim Dashti said they had already provided evidence against Raheen to the Presidential Palace, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Attorney General Office (AGO) and the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOOAC).
“President Hamid Karzai had assigned a commission with probing the allegations, but there has been no outcome so far.”
Dashti added the journalist body had sent many letters to the Wolesi Jirga’s Commission on Cultural and Religious Affairs; however the required action was still awaited.
On behalf of ANJU, he urged President Karzai to order the authorities concerned to investigate fund misappropriation allegations against Raheen.
However, Raheen has called the allegations against him as “stupid.” He acknowledges depositing the money in his personal account, he vehemently denies misusing the funds, saying the allegations are being made by his former colleagues whom he had sacked and who are seeking revenge, according to the newspaper
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