The New York Times, in a story entitled “Afghanistan Tries to Help Nation’s Biggest Bank” issued the following correction:
Correction: September 4, 2010
An earlier version of this article, citing American and Afghan officials, erroneously stated that the United States would contribute money to help the Kabul Bank. American officials say the United States is providing technical assistance but no funds for the bank.
The problem is that the “earlier version” was correct – the correction is incorrect. Kabul Bank has been revealed to be a “control fraud.” Control frauds occur when those that control a seemingly legitimate entity use it as a “weapon” to defraud. Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime – combined. Control frauds can also cause immense damage to a nation because they are run by financial elites that curry favor from political elites. The result is that they are often able to loot “their” banks for years with impunity. They also degrade the integrity of the entire system.
Kabul Bank is a typical example of a crude variant of control fraud at a major bank. Systems of crony capitalism, such as Afghanistan, inherently create an intensely “criminogenic” environment that produces epidemics of control fraud in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Kabul Bank, like the (originally Pakistani) Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) – better known to regulators as the “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International” is reported to have helped everyone – corrupt Afghani government officials, corrupt business leaders, and the Taliban laundering its drug profits to, in part, buy weapons. Like BCCI, Kabul Bank’s managers’ reported frauds and self-dealing blew up the bank by causing massive losses. (If you believe that Kabul Bank is the only bank like this in Afghanistan you are consuming too much of Afghanistan’s leading export.)
The CIA tells us that Afghanistan raised roughly $1 billion in revenues last year and expended $3.3 billion. The shortfall, of course, was funded by us (the West, principally the U.S.). Indeed, that understates the case because Afghanistan raised the $1 billion in revenues primarily through customs duties and the U.S. and other Western nations indirectly or directly funded most of those customs duties. We know certain facts. Afghanistan has no deposit insurance system. Its government has no financial responsibility for bailing out Kabul Bank’s depositors. Nevertheless, Afghanistan’s government has announced it will bail out the depositors. The funds to bail out the depositors will come – indirectly, but surely – largely from the United States Treasury. The New York Times’ initial article correctly stated that the U.S. will bail out Kabul Bank’s depositors. Someone obviously demanded a “correction.” Whoever that person was lied to the New York Times with the goal of getting the newspaper to lie to its readers. That lie succeeded. It is time for the New York Times to correct its correction and defeat this effort to mislead the public. The U.S. taxpayers are about to bail out the depositors of a fraudulent Afghan bank.
**Bill Black is also a white-collar criminologist and former financial regulator. He is the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.