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Afghan woman sought in alleged $1.1M bank theft

KABUL — The young woman worked for three years at the Afghan bank, officials said. Then one day she vanished. As did $1.1 million.

Afghan authorities were scrambling to locate the suspected thief and several alleged accomplices, and an international arrest warrant has been issued. Still, the revelations are another embarrassment for the banking sector in this country, which has seen corruption unravel one major institution amid ongoing security threats from militants and criminals.

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Shokofa Salehi, 22, worked in the money transfer division at the headquarters of Azizi Bank, a major Afghan lender in Kabul, officials said. She disappeared about two months ago, according to Azizi chief executive Inayatullah Fazli. Investigators said she was suspected of transferring about $1.1 million from the bank’s coffers to accounts of relatives. Besides Salehi, at least nine people were believed involved.

‘‘They are a mafia group,’’ Fazli alleged.

An Interpol red notice — the equivalent of an international arrest warrant — said Salehi was wanted on charges of fraud and misusing her authority. Afghan officials think Salehi used fake papers under the name Samira to reach India after the money was transferred.

Two suspects in the case have been detained in Dubai, Afghan police official General Aminullah Amarkhail said, adding that he is in touch with officials in Dubai and India for help finding Salehi and other suspects. He said one suspect is alleged to have spent some $850,000 of the money to invest in a tire business and possibly other ventures in Dubai.

Amarkhail said Salehi’s parents were among the suspects, and are believed to have returned to Kabul after going with her to India. Another top police official, Mohammad Zahir, said investigators were still seeking the parents.

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