Kungamakaren i Kabul
Razaq Ahmadzai's (far left) party Green Trend (Basej-e Milli) is an important coalition partner for President Ashraf Ghani (center, left image), who will now be appointing his new government.

Afghan election: One major winner under investigation for benefit fraud in Sweden

Publicerad 22 december 2019 kl 20.14

Utrikes. Following the announcement of today's election results in Afghanistan, politician Razaq Ahmadzai, 58, is expected to land a top job within President Ashraf Ghani's new administration. At the same time, Ahmadzai – who in fact lives in one of the most expensive luxury villas in Kabul – is registered as a resident in Sweden, where he receives benefits and has collected pension payments intended for his long-deceased mother, Fria Tider can reveal today.

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SUCCESS STORY: Razaq Ahmadzai has branded himself as a businessman with a history of exceptional results in Sweden. However, his income from Sweden is made up of government grants and various frauds, Fria Tider can reveal.

© FB

PASSED AWAY: Razaq Ahmadzai's mother died in January 2017, according to this Facebook post from Ahmadzai's cousin.

© FB

MEMORIAL: Razaq Ahmadzai (second left) attending a memorial ceremony for his dead mother, January 28, 2017.

The drawn-out presidential election in Afghanistan is finally coming to an end. As the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced the results of the recount on Sunday, it was clear that the country's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah had been defeated. His opponent, incumbent President Ashraf Ghani, is expected to announce his new government shortly.

The election is not only a success for President Ghani himself, but also for the coalition party Green Trend (Basej-e Milli), which is set to play a pivotal role in the post-election process and receive ministerial posts in the new government.

The Green Trend is led by the double act Amrullah Saleh and Razaq Ahmadzai. Saleh is the party leader and was until January this year Afghanistan's interior minister, but he is now expected to become Vice President. Razaq Ahmadzai is the campaign manager and more of a newcomer who, thanks to the election results, has become one of Afghanistan's most powerful men.

The party presents Ahmadzai as an international businessman who, after having made great success in Sweden, has now chosen to move home to Afghanistan for patriotic reasons.

"After spending much of my life in Sweden, my longing for Afghanistan and its climate became too great," Razaq Ahmadzai proclaims in a campaign video, recorded in the garden of his luxury villa in Shahr-e Naw, one of Kabul's most exclusive areas.

In the video, he states that he started out as the head of Kabul's electoral district for the State Builders (Dawlat-saz), a political alliance that supports the incumbent President.

"I was convinced to help out with full force and with all my resources, so that the State Builders would be the winners of the election," Ahmadzai says.

Money from Sweden
However, Fria Tider's investigation into the matter shows that the politician does not tell the whole truth about his move to Afghanistan. Parallel to his luxury life in Kabul, this Afghan state builder is still registered as a resident in Sweden, living in a far less glamorous rental apartment in Gothenburg. At the same time, he takes care of his mother's finances and has access to her bank account, according to a police investigation.

The only problem is that the mother, who receives a pension from Sweden, died in January 2017. Razaq Ahmadzai's cousin, a 62-year-old Afghan man who lives in the Netherlands, announced the woman's death in a Facebook post on January 13, 2017. Images from a memorial ceremony in Gothenburg appear to show both Ahmadzai and his cousin attending as grieving relatives and clan members honor the deceased woman. The photos are from February 1, 2017.

One month later, on February 28, 2017, the woman was suddenly registered as having emigrated in the Tax Agency's register. The death itself, however, was never registered. She is still alive and is currently living in Afghanistan, according to the erroneous information in the Census Register requested by Fria Tider on Friday.

False identity
In his campaign video for the State Builders, Ahmadzai also reveals that he was born in March 1961, and not in June 1956 as is incorrectly stated in his Swedish ID documents. Furthermore, he is in fact named Razaq, which means "provider" in Arabic, and not Razag – the name he provided to the Swedish authorities.

A few years before his mother's death, Razaq Ahmadzai's political ambitions in Afghanistan began to get very serious. At this time, he sold his house on the Arbogagatan street in Gothenburg and moved permanently to Kabul. Instead, he registered himself and his wife as residing at a bought address in Hisingen, Gothenburg, where he still lives according to the Swedish Tax Agency's register. At the same time, he started using his Swedish identity to take out bank loans and take on large debts. According to the Swedish Enforcement Authority's register, he has accumulated hundreds of thousands of Swedish krona in debt, owing money to the Tax Agency, the SEB bank and others.

The Gothenburg police, who received an early report of the pension fraud, was quick to initiate a preliminary investigation into benefit fraud, Fria Tider has learned. At the same time, the police informed several authorities about their suspicions through a notification containing both Ahmadzai's and the deceased woman's Swedish social security numbers. In the notification, it was made clear that Razaq Ahmadzai disposed of the woman's bank account, that he probably is a relative of her and that there are no indications that she is still alive. Despite this, however, the pension money kept being paid out.

"Tomorrow I'm the boss"
On Monday, Free Times made a request to the Swedish Tax Agency's press service to read the agency's investigation into the mother and her emigration to Afghanistan. Late on Friday, the Tax Agency announced that the document was still not ready to be disclosed.

On Friday, Free Times called Amrullah Saleh's office. There were initially no problems in communicating, but when we made clear that we called from a Swedish newspaper that wanted to ask Razaq Ahmadzai about his election success, the person on the other side of the line was suddenly silent.

"It is possible that you hear me perfectly well but I hear nothing of what you are saying," the person eventually said and hung up the phone.

Razaq Ahmadzai himself, however, is convinced that his future looks bright. In a hotly debated Facebook post from September 17, Ahmadzai challenged Abdullah Governor Abdullah to a live television duel after President Ghani had refused to debate with Abdulllah.

One user quickly pointed out that this would not make sense as Ahmadzai is not in public office, while Abdullah is the head of government and therefore should get to debate the president. But Razaq Ahmadzai disagreed.

"Yes, Abdullah was a former janitor and today he is the head of government. Today I am the head of the election campaign and tomorrow I will be Abdullah's boss," Ahmadzai wrote in a reply.

Update: Following the publication of this article, the Swedish Pensions Agency has confirmed that the payments to the woman's account were suspended in 2017. According to Fria Tider's sources, the agency became aware of the ongoing fraud the previous year through tips.

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