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Afghan president's family linked to alleged drugs kingpin Right-hand man of 'highly significant international criminal' Robert Dawes boasts of connections with three nephews of Hamid Karzai Daniel Foggo and Carl Fellstrom Published: 27 April 2011

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From left: alleged drugs kingpin Robert Dawes, Hamid Karzai's nephew Jamil Karzai and Dawes's right-hand man Raphael Nasr

Family of the Afghan president Hamid Karzai have formed connections with a British man who is wanted for major drug trafficking and murder. An investigation by the Sunday Times has uncovered evidence that three nephews of Karzai - who include a former Afghan MP and a government intelligence chief - are linked to Robert Dawes, a 39-year-old alleged drugs kingpin who has been the subject of eight separate National Crime Squad investigations. Dawes, named by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) in recent court documents as a “highly significant international criminal” has been in prison in Dubai fighting extradition to Spain where the authorities want him to face trial over a 200kilo haul of cocaine discovered outside Madrid in September 2007. He is also wanted in Holland where he has been accused of ordering the murder of an innocent school teacher, Gerard Meesters, in Groningen in November 2002. Meesters was allegedly targeted simply for being the relative of someone who had crossed Dawes. Detectives in Britain are understood to want to interview Dawes about drug trafficking, money laundering and the unsolved murder in October 2002 of Nottinghamshire man David Draycott, who - like Meesters - was assassinated at his home. Dawes left the UK for Spain nearly ten years ago and has spent much of his time shuttling between there and Dubai. In the intervening period police swooped on members of a drugs cartel, including his brother and father, jailing them in 2005 for drugs offences and money laundering. Court papers relating to the conviction of Dawes' brother, John, who was jailed for 24 years in 2005 for drug trafficking offences, conservatively estimate that more than £1 million a month was being laundered by the cartel. Since 2007 Dawes has stayed in Dubai, allegedly running a money-laundering operation. Dubai has long been considered a magnet for money-laundering, particularly in relation to Afghanistan, where much of the political elite have second homes. It was at the centre of last year’s scandal over the misuse of Kabul Bank by some of its shareholders, who had been lending money to themselves to buy property in the country - with the US embassy in Afghanistan estimating that $10m a day leaves the country for Dubai, much of it the proceeds of illegal activity. The Sunday Times began investigating Dawes’s connections with the Karzai family after receiving information that Jamil Karzai, a nephew of the Afghan president, had been seen at offices run by the Briton’s right-hand man, Raphael Nasr. An undercover reporter approached Manchester-born Nasr posing as a broker representing a client looking for business partners in Afghanistan. Dawes and Nasr jointly run Argosta Emirates General Trading, a Dubai-based company, and Nasr also controls Syncon, a construction company registered to operate in Afghanistan. In telephone conversations Nasr boasted of strong links not only to Jamil Karzai, but also his brothers, Yama and Ajmal. Yama Karzai now occupies a position within the Afghan intelligence services. Nasr also claimed that Yama's brother Ajmal Karzai is now the president of Syncon. Although he was initially wary (“I’m not talking to a reporter or something? It’s just that I’m going to be introducing you to some people and they can help in there”) Nasr said his connections could easily facilitate work for the reporter’s client. He said: “Yama is like my brother. I am in Kabul often and stay with his family. He has just been made head of four departments and is a general. I could ask as in favours from him. “Obviously of course we have ways of getting in, we have ins, there are people who are favoured there, do you understand? “The president now [of Syncon] is Ajmal Karzai. He was working with the US government on special operations and then left the government because the job they gave him was to do with drug enforcement which he didn’t [want], which was a highrisk kind of job. “So you know again, you’ve got a gentleman there who knows, who took me to three ministers just via a mobile telephone call. “Of course we are going to give you favouritism, of course there is, it’s all over the world.” Nasr said that contruction contracts in Afghanistan given to “triple A companies” could be sub-contracted to the reporter’s client for an “administration fee”, but only with the use of his connections to open doors. He said: “We can go sit with them and they say give us a five per cent, three per cent administration fee and that’s your contract. Whereas they wouldn't do that with other people.” Nasr put the reporter in telephone contact with Jamil Karzai, who was in Dubai. The Afghan, who heads the Youth Solidarity Party, was an MP in Kabul until losing his seat in 2010. Jamil Karzai, who was a regular visitor to the Argosta offices, told the undercover reporter: “I know him [Raphael Nasr] from Dubai, so he has been to Afghanistan, there are a lot of things we can do in Afghanistan. It's a matter of being here and witnessing for yourself what I can do or what we can do. “Raphael is our best friend and is now kind of family now....we can do good business there if we all get together we can have something really good.” He confirmed that his brother Ajaml was the president of Syncon, adding: “He [Nasr] is our friend, so [of] our friendship there is no doubt, but still you know me or my younger brother Yama, we are not in a business deal with him yet, but our elder brother, he is or he is going to to be the president of his company in Afghanistan.” Asked about Dawes, Karzai said: “I’ve spoken with him, yeah, I’ve spoken with him I think a couple of times, through Raph by telephone.” Both Karzai and Nasr were keen to effect a meeting with the reporter in Dubai or Afghanistan to discuss projects further. Dawes was arrested in Dubai in 2008, apparently relating to a warrant emanating from Spain, where earlier this month four of his alleged associates in the 2007 drugs haul were convicted and given sentences of up to eight years each. Following inquiries by the Sunday Times Dawes was finally extradited to Spain two weeks ago. When contacted openly by the Sunday Times Nasr admitted he was friends with members of the Karzai family and Robert Dawes but denied he was involved in any criminality. He said: “I have not done anything criminal. How can I have done anything wrong as I have not been arrested? “Is it a crime to be friends with certain people. This is a crazy situation. Listen, be very, very careful what you print,” he said. Jamil Karzai denied when contacted that he knew anyone called Raphael Nasr or Robert Dawes. He said: “Are you trying to blackmail me? I speak with lots of people lots of the time. I am a political figure so people want to speak with me. I have been to Dubai several times and maybe I get to meet with ex-pats there in restaurants from time to time. I do not know this man. I totally deny knowing these people [Nasr and Dawes],” he said. Additional reporting: Tom Worden

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