The Attorney General's office on Thursday reported that it would move forward with implementing the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Kabul Bank corruption case after the high court reaffirmed a previous appeals court decision on Thursday.
"The superior court and public security court of the Supreme Court endorsed the ruling of the appeals court," Supreme Court spokesman Abdullah Atayee said on Thursday.
The Supreme Court was asked to review the appeals court decision after a number of influential individuals indicted in the case rejected the initial ruling to increase prison terms for the bank's top executives and freeze assets of all those involved in the loan scheme.
The Kabul Bank case has become a symbol of Afghanistan's corruption problems since the embezzlement of over 900 million USD from the bank was first exposed in 2010.
According to the Attorney General's office, 12 million USD has been recuperated since the case was reopened by President Ashraf Ghani when he took office in September. Officials say all assets of the defendants in the case will remain frozen until the full amount of money stolen from the bank is recovered.
"The attorney general will implement the ruling of the court against the debtors of the bank beginning on Saturday," Attorney General spokesman Basir Azizi said.
The Supreme Court has also endorsed legal action against an additional 16 defendants in the case, including two foreign firms. "On the basis of the court decision, 16 other defendants including two foreign firms will also be prosecuted," Attayee said.
President Ghani's decision to have the Attorney General's office re-prosecute the Kabul Bank case has been promoted as evidence of the new government's commitment to combating Afghanistan's pervasive corruption problems. Yet many critics have downplayed it as a mere gesture and politically motivated move, some making claims that individuals responsible for stealing money from the bank have been kept out of the prosecution because of their influence in the national unity government.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) has said that the investigation was not conducted properly. "The Kabul Bank case wasn't reassessed as it was supposed to be, those who are in high positions and played roles in the collapse of the bank should be prosecuted on the basis of the anti-money laundering law," IWA chief Syed Ekram Afzali said.
Former chairman of the Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption, Azizullah Ludin, has also criticized the handling of the case. "The ruling of the appellate court will not settle the issue, the case has overshadowed the reputation of Afghanistan's banking system and people speculate that the court's actions were political and these speculations are right," Ludin told TOLOnews.
The Kabul Bank was the country's largest financial institution before its collapse in 2010. When it was exposed that over 900 million USD had been stolen by powerful debtors and the bank's top executives, a depositor panic occurred forcing the government, with the help of international backers, to bail the bank out.