Ashraf Ghani dismisses claims he took £123m with him as he fled Kabul as ‘lies’

Ashraf Ghani dismisses claims he took £123m with him as he fled Kabul as ‘lies’
It was reported Mr Ghani left Kabul with four cars and a helicopter stuffed with cash

Ousted Afghan president Ashraf Ghani has dismissed claims he took a large amount of money with him when he fled Kabul as “lies”.

The country’s former leader, who is currently in exile in the United Arab Emirates, claimed he was “in talks to return” home despite fleeing the capital on Sunday as the militants seized control.

It was reported that Mr Ghani left Kabul with four cars and a helicopter stuffed with cash and was forced to leave some of it behind as it would not all fit into the vehicles.

Mohammad Zahir Aghbar, the Afghan ambassador in Tajikistan, on Wednesday claimed the 72-year-old had escaped with £123m in state funds in what he described as a “betrayal of the nation”. Mr Ghani was originally reported to have gone to Tajikistan as the jihadists closed in on the capital.

Speaking in a live broadcast on his official Facebook page, Mr Ghani vigorously denied the ambassador’s account – insisting he had fled the country to prevent bloodshed.

“If I had stayed I would have been witnessing bloodshed in Kabul,” he said, claiming he was “forced to leave Afghanistan with one set of traditional clothes, a vest and the sandals I was wearing”.

“Events unfolded at a fast pace. I wanted to negotiate an inclusive government with the Taliban,” he said, adding that he was in talks to return to Afghanistan to “continue efforts for justice, true Islamic and national values.”

The UAE’s foreign ministry on Wednesday confirmed Mr Ghani and his family had been welcomed into the country on “humanitarian grounds”. It is the first time his location has been confirmed since Kabul fell to the Taliban over the weekend.

The Russian embassy in Kabul also claimed Mr Ghani had left the country with bundles of money stashed in several vehicles.

“As for the collapse of the (outgoing) regime, it is most eloquently characterised by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan,” embassy spokesman Nikita Ishchenko was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.

“Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac,” he added.

Mr Ghani has been condemned by other Afghan politicians for choosing to flee the country after it was seized by the Taliban. “God will hold him accountable and the nation will also judge,” said Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation.

At least 12 people have been killed in and around the airport since the Taliban seized control of the capital on Sunday, NATO and a Taliban official said.

Harrowing footage emerged today showing parents at the airport handing their children over the barrier to American soldiers in the hope of getting them on evacuation flights, which have resumed following a temporary halt due to overcrowding at the airport.

The US may take up to 80,000 Afghans, with 3,300 moved so far. The UK has announced that it will take around 20,000.