An Afghan businessman has been charged with bribing U.S. soldiers to obtain millions of dollars in U.S. supply contracts in a major U.S. court case targeting corruption during the war in Afghanistan.
A criminal complaint filed December 23 in a North Carolina federal court charges trucking company owner Hikmatullah Shadman with conspiracy and bribery in connection with payments he made to two soldiers in 2009.
The charges follow a move by the Justice Department in 2013 to freeze more than $63 million in bank accounts controlled by Shadman, owner of Hikmat Shadman Logistics Services Co.
It was the first asset freeze of its kind involving Afghan contractors. Authorities alleged that more than $77 million was fraudulently obtained from the government through Shadman's inflated trucking contracts.
The criminal complaint said law enforcement agencies are investigating corruption in the contracting process in Afghanistan, particularly between 2009 and 2012, and have uncovered evidence that Shadman's company and others paid bribes to receive contracts despite charging more than their competitors.
The investigating agencies include the FBI, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
An American attorney who previously represented Shadman in the asset-freezing case didn't immediately return a message seeking comment from the Associated Press on December 29. Shadman's current whereabouts were not known.
The complaint said Shadman paid approximately $140,000 to Robert W. Green, then an Army staff sergeant. Green was able to hire specific Afghan trucking companies rather than open up contracts to a competitive bidding process because of his role managing supply requests at Kandahar Air Field, authorities said.
Green told investigators that he asked for money after hearing Shadman had paid other soldiers, according to the complaint.
A few days later, Green received a phone call asking him to visit the businessman's nearby compound where Shadman gave him a plastic bag containing a bundle of $100 bills, investigators said. The complaint said Green received several such payments of between $30,000 and $50,000.
Prosecutors said Green steered at least 40 contracts worth $3 million to the Afghan businessman.
David A. Kline, at the time a first lieutenant and Green's superior, received about $50,000 in cash with the understanding that he would give work to Shadman's companies, the complaint said.
Green and Kline have both pleaded guilty to accepting bribes. Green was sentenced in September to 10 months in prison and one year of supervised release, according to court documents.
Kline reached a plea agreement with prosecutors last month that included cooperating in the case against Shadman. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for January.
Afghan trucking companies in 2009 commonly transported fuel, food, water, and other items for the U.S. military. Units would ask for supplies through military logistics groups such as the Movement Control Team that included Kline and Green, and the requests would then be assigned to local companies.
The requests were supposed to be subject to a competitive bidding process, but that could be circumvented if contracting officers designated a specific company.