Karzai Sings to the Choir in $16 Billion Concert

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba and Afghan President Hamid Karzai (L-R) leave after a photo session at the Tokyo Conference on the Reconstruction of Afghanistan. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is saying yes to a flood of new foreign aid for his country, and calling on donor nations to do a better job insuring the new money pouring in is not lost to corruption.

At a conference in Tokyo, Karzai welcomed some $16 billion in pledges of new assistance. The amount pledged surpassed his government’s wildest expectations, given widespread concerns about entrenched corruption, and the failure of the Kabul government to prosecute such cases.

In Tokyo, Karzai switched gears to lead the anti-corruption charge. He argued that Afghanistan is not solely responsible for corruption, and said that donors (who beefed-up oversight as a condition of new aid) must monitor the billions of dollars that flow into his troubled nation. When money flows in, he noted, influence peddling and corruption inevitably follow in his poverty-stricken and war-torn nation. This has made corruption one of the biggest obstacles to progress in Afghanistan.

Still, he acknowledged that there is plenty of blame to go around.  The Karzai Administration is widely seen as a patronage network, and only a handful of people have been prosecuted for corruption on his watch. Some $60 billion in civilian aid has gone to Afghanistan since 2002, much of it siphoned off through corruption.

Under new rules foreign donors imposed as a condition of new aid, most of the money will now be channeled through National Priority Programs established Afghan government, with mechanisms to insure transparency, the Associated Press reports.

Karzai told the group that the way in which projects are selected for financial support and the way in which they are funded are all “issues that we have to address.”  He added that,  “On corruption, two hands must clap.”

Sweep to Afghan President Hamid Karzai says donors must help his country fight corruption

The five-year saga of corruption that has captured a nation’s attention and ensnared former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may be soon coming to an end.

An Israeli court will soon deliver a verdict in the trial of Olmert,  in which he is charged in three separate cases of illegally accepting funds from an American supporter, double-billing Jewish groups for trips abroad and giving jobs to unqualified political cronies.  Olmert was charged in September 2009 and stepped down under Israeli law, which requires top officials to leave office if indicted for a serious crime.

The Associated Press reports that Olmert could be the first Israeli prime minister sent to prison over a serious crime. Or, he could be acquitted amid questions whether an overzealous prosecution hounded him from office.

Olmert has denied any wrongdoing.  At his trial, an American supporter testified he had given Olmert hundreds of thousands of dollars, some in envelopes stuffed with cash.  Some Israeli legal observers say the Olmert trial shows that no one is above the law.

If acquitted, Olmert’s travails are not over.   He is facing a separate trial over charges he accepted bribes for a building project in Jerusalem when he was that city’s mayor and later in the Israeli cabinet.

Sweep to Verdict near in unprecedented trial of former Israeli premier on corruption charges

It’s back in the dock for Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, sons of  ex-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.  This is the sons’ second appearance in court on the same charge: corruption.

The two had been acquitted in an earlier case.  This time, the two Mubaraks, and seven others, are accused of insider trading in a trial that has just begun.   In the previous trial, charges were dropped against the two because the statute of limitations had expired.  In this case, the two are charged with illegally obtaining millions of dollars form the al-Watany Bank of Egypt through stock market manipulation.

The two sons are no longer living in the style to which they had grown accustomed to in when their family held grip on the nation’s coffers.  They have been in prison while the new charges were investigated.

If convicted, the two face up to 15 years in prison.  Both sons denied any wrongdoing.  The Egypt Independent said that some anti-corruption activists fear that even if convicted, the two might avoid a lengthy prison term due to loopholes in Egyptian law.

Sweep to Mubarak sons insider trading case begins, but is justice elusive?


Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne

Leslie Wayne, former senior editor at 100Reporters, is an award-winning business reporter, formerly at The New York Times. Ms. Wayne joined The Times in 1981 and has covered Wall Street, banking industry regulatory reform, municipal finance scandals and, most recently, the aerospace and military industries. Ms. Wayne has an M.B.A. in finance from Columbia Business School and was also a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Business and Economic Journalism.