Warrants have been signed for the arrest of two Afghan cabinet ministers on charges of theft and fraud, highlighting the extent of alleged corruption in the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Investigators in Afghanistan’s fledgling major crimes taskforce, under the tutelage of British and American police officers, have gathered sufficient evidence to charge Sediq Chakari, the minister of hajj and Islamic affairs.

A second cabinet minister has also had a warrant issued against him but his name has not been confirmed.

The warrants were handed to Karzai earlier this month, according to a prosecution source. Under Afghan law, Karzai must suspend a minister’s immunity before the warrant can be served. Whether the president allows his ministers to be prosecuted is seen as an early test of a promise to clean up his government.

Karzai, whose second five-year term began last week, has been warned by western backers that rampant corruption, a crooked police force and alliances with drug-dealing war lords are fuelling the Taliban insurgency.

A police source confirmed that a warrant had been issued against Chakari. The minister’s spokesman said yesterday: “We will have no comment.” But he indicated that Chakari would hold a press conference today.

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