Afghan security forces used batons on unruly customers scrambling to withdraw their savings from a branch of the graft-hit Kabulbank, the country’s biggest private financial institution.
Officers from the National Security Directorate struggled to maintain control of up to 200 people outside one branch in the capital as desperate customers tried to take out money ahead of a three-day Muslim holiday.
The crisis in Afghanistan’s top private bank developed after the company’s top two directors quit amid unproven media allegations of corruption.
The central bank ordered the assets of Kabulbank’s former chairman Sher Khan Farnood and chief executive officer Khalilullah Fruzi to be frozen, together with those of several other shareholders and major borrowers.
Witnesses saw officers of the National Security Directorate beat several people among queues of angry customers.
“It’s Eid, we need money for food, clothes, candy,” said Hameed Iqbal, a customer in air force uniform.
“They said all the bank branches would be open, they lied. I’m extremely angry,” he said.
Corruption is one of the most common complaints from ordinary Afghans and Washington fears widespread graft is boosting the Taliban-led insurgency and complicating efforts to strengthen central government control so US and other foreign troops can begin withdrawing.
Another customer who identified himself as Rahim, blamed the government for the crisis at the bank.
“If they do not listen to us we will break all the windows of Kabulbank, we will loot all the branches and even … the presidential palace,” said Rahim, who said he was a cook in a government office.
Kabulbank’s include 250,000 state employees and it also handles salaries for the Afghan security forces. Witnesses saw an NSD officer beating at least one man wearing a police uniform.
Sayed Hammad, a 38-year-old grocery store owner, said he had heard on television on Tuesday that all Kabulbank branches would be open instead of just the single branch in Kabul. He said he wanted withdraw $3,000 and close his account.
“I used to trust the bank but not anymore,” Hammad said. “You put your money in you don’t know if you’ll get it out.”
At the start of the month, US media reported the central bank had taken control of Kabulbank, forcing Farnood and Fruzi to resign and ordering the chairman to hand over $160m worth of luxury villas bought with bank funds in Dubai.
The Afghan government and the central bank governor have both rejected the allegations, denying that the central bank had stepped in and saying Farnood and Fruzi had stepped aside in line with new financial regulations.