Afghanistan investigates Cabinet nominee over alleged appearance on Interpol wanted list

Afghanistan is investigating a Cabinet nominee over allegedly being on an Interpol most-wanted list for tax evasion, a government spokesman said Sunday, a potential embarrassment for President Ashraf Ghani amid his pledges to root out corruption.

The probe focuses on Mohammad Yaqub Haidari, 52, the nominee to oversee the country's Agriculture Ministry. Interpol lists an Afghan man with the same name resembling Haidari as being wanted in Estonia for "large-scale tax evasion" and "fraudulent conversion," without elaborating.

The Associated Press could not immediately reach Haidari for comment. Afghanistan's private Tolo television station first reported on Haidari's alleged appearance on the list Saturday night.

Nazifullah Salarzai, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said Sunday that if Haidari is wanted by Interpol, his nomination will be immediately withdrawn.

"If the investigation proves that the allegation against him is true, Afghan law will be enforced on him," Salarzai told the AP.

Ghani announced his Cabinet nominations last week after a delay of more than three months. Aides during the search described Ghani as eager to build a meritocratic government, and move away from the ethos of patronage and graft that characterized the previous 13 years under President Hamid Karzai. Ghani also said he didn't want to appoint anyone who previously held a ministerial post.

It's not immediately clear how Haidari found himself to be nominated to run the Agriculture Ministry. Before his nomination last week, few had heard of him.