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Kabul mayor, convicted for corruption, denies it's a problem

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KHAN NESHIN AND KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – What corruption?

That was the response when I asked Kabul Mayor Mir Abdul Ahad Sahebi last month about corruption in the capital of Afghanistan.

Yesterday, the white-haired mayor who lived as a student in Washington, became the first major official in Afghanistan to be convicted for corruption since President Hamid Karzai pledged to crack down on crooked government employees.

Police arrested Mr. Sahebi after a court sentenced him to four years in jail for embezzlement. Sahebi, who took office 1-½ years ago, has previously denied the charges.

When I sat down with him in mid-November, he had a novel take on the corruption that’s widely perceived as endemic. “I am searching around to find one person [working for the city] who is taking a bribe, but I don't see it,” he said then. “This latest propaganda about corruption, I personally believe not 2 percent of it is actual facts or figures.”

Sahebi argued that city amenities cost money and sometimes fees for services get misunderstood as corruption. He also said that international contracts for development here are the worst offenders.

Anything, for a price

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