U.S. prosecutors have launched a criminal probe of one of the brothers of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to determine whether he should be charged with tax evasion, racketeering, or extortion, according to unnamed sources quoted in "The Wall Street Journal
The paper notes that "any move to indict Mahmood Karzai, who is a U.S. citizen, carries huge risks for American officials, whose anticorruption efforts have often provoked sharp backlashes from President Karzai."
U.S. authorities are quoted as saying that the investigation into the activities of Mahmood Karzai, the president's oldest brother, is a result of a corruption probe being conducted by federal prosecutors in New York.
Mahmood Karzai denied any wrongdoing, saying, "They won't find anything; I'm just a businessman," according to the paper.
Any decision on whether to prosecute under U.S. jurisdiction would rest ultimately with the Justice Department.
Mahmood Karzai ran a restaurant in Massachussetts before 2001, but has expanded his interests to include a one-fifth stake in a major housing development outside the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, according to "The Wall Street Journal."
He was also a shareholder in Kabul Bank
, which was Afghanistan's largest privately held bank until authorities took it over
amid a run on the bank after reports that it had been gutted by corruption and risky investments.
Another presidential brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, is a prominent politician in the Kandahar area who has been targeted by persistent allegations
of corruption and purported involvement in the drug trade. He has denied any wrongdoing and said such charges are the result of politically motivated grudges.
Afghan anticorruption authorities' detention
of presidential aide Mohammad Zia Salehi this summer reportedly sparked ill will between Karzai and U.S. officials, who have pushed hard for greater accountability by Kabul with billions of dollars in aid pouring into Afghanistan.