German Prosecutors Terminate Probe Into Former Afghan Politician’s Properties

Published: 14 June 2024

ajmal-rahmaniAjmal Rahmani in the Afghan Parliament. (Photo: Screenshot of tweet shared by @H_AjmalRahmani)

By Katie Sawyer

German prosecutors have dropped their investigation into real estate deals by Ajmal Rahmani, a former Afghan politician who says the decision strengthens his lawsuit against the U.S. government, which sanctioned him for alleged corruption.

“We are confident that the U.S. court will –– just like the German authorities –– make the right decision, i.e., our exoneration from all the accusations,” Rahmani said in an emailed response to questions.

In December, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Rahmani and his father, accusing them of “transnational corruption.” The Rahmanis responded with a lawsuit challenging the sanctions, filed January 31.

In the meantime, the Stuttgart public prosecutor’s office had been probing possible money laundering offenses related to real estate deals in Germany, where Rahmani owns more than $200 million worth of property. Prosecutors said this week they had terminated the investigation due to lack of “concrete evidence” from U.S. authorities.

While prosecutors did not name the target of their probe, Rahmani said he welcomed the decision to drop the investigation into him and people related to him.

“We were delighted but not surprised because we knew that we did nothing wrong, and the closure of the investigation proved us right,” Rahmani told OCCRP.

In its sanctions notice, Treasury accused Rahmani and his father of bribing their way into positions in Afghanistan's Parliament, where they held seats until the government was overthrown in August 2021.

The U.S. Treasury also alleged the pair had been involved in a scheme to manipulate Afghanistan’s fuel market in order to misappropriate U.S. funds intended to buy fuel for Afghan security forces.

In their lawsuit, the Rahmanis reject accusations of political corruption and “categorically deny any involvement in any fuel procurement corruption scheme.”

German prosecutors appear to have based their investigation, at least in part, on the U.S. allegations.

The Stuttgart public prosecutor’s office said it had been looking into “high-priced real estate throughout Germany from allegedly incriminated assets from the fulfillment of logistics contracts for the U.S. military and NATO in the course of the Afghanistan war.”

But prosecutors said this week that information from the U.S. was inconclusive.

“The investigations carried out, in particular the information obtained from the United States of America through legal assistance, have not revealed any sufficiently concrete evidence of an incriminated origin of the funds invested in Germany by companies based in the area of ​​responsibility of the Stuttgart public prosecutor's office,” they said in their statement.

The U.S. Treasury Department did not respond by publication to a request for comment.

Rahmani’s German real estate acquisitions began in 2018, when he amassed properties worth a total of about 200 million euros ($212 million) in Munich and Frankfurt over four years, according to OCCRP’s reporting partner ZDF frontal.

His Cyprus citizenship played a key role in his business in Germany, OCCRP reported in May. He bought the properties using Cypriot holding companies, as well as German firms registered with his Cyprus passport.

In the lawsuit against the U.S. government, Rahmani argued that the sanctions could threaten his Cypriot citizenship, exposing him to possible deportation to Afghanistan where he and his family would be at risk of “persecution and physical harm at the hands of the Taliban.”

Rahmani also said in the suit that he could be forced to leave Dubai if his Cyprus passport was revoked, noting that “his residency is tied to his Cypriot citizenship.”

Aside from his German properties, leaked data from the Dubai Unlocked project shows that five properties in the Gulf emirate –– worth about $3.2 million in total –– were registered to Rahmani’s Cypriot passport.