23 january 2019

Central Asia news

Afghan diplomats demand Tajik bank return their money

09.01.2018 22:31 msk


Azizi Boriz is an Afghan diplomat who suffered losses from the banking crisis in Tajikistan. Photo from the ozodi.org website
The four diplomats who worked at the Afghan embassy in Dushanbe are demanding Tochiksodirotbank to return their deposits. According to one of the diplomats, Azizi Boriz, he and his colleagues cannot access their $ 300,000 savings in the Tajik bank for about two years already, Ozodi Radio (the Tajik service of Radio Liberty) reports.

The diplomat said that they had made the deposits in 2008 when all four were employees of the Afghan embassy in Dushanbe. Under the agreement concluded between the depositors and the bank, they can easily withdraw money from deposits at any time. According to Azizi Boriz, the problems that have arisen with their assets contradict the international Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, signed in 1961. Tajikistan, which adopted this convention, is obliged to protect the rights of foreign diplomats on its territory, but the state has so far taken no action to help the four citizens of Afghanistan. Boriz noted that they are forced to appeal to the court because of the situation and time limits have already been exhausted.

"It was money we had been saving for a long time. We were assured that we can return our deposits at any time. But for two years now, as they promise us, they say 'come today or tomorrow,' but we cannot receive the money," Azizi Boriz said, explaining that he and his colleagues had deposited the profits from the sale of real estate in Afghanistan at the bank. Besides, they had invested a part of their wages in the bank too. According to ex-employees of the Afghan diplomatic mission, other diplomats who worked in Tajikistan also had deposits in Tochiksodirotbank, but they have been returned their money.

An employee of Tochiksodirotbank, on condition of anonymity, told Ozodi Radio that the Afghans had been offered the money in instalments, but they refused. The bank cannot return the deposits entirely at one time because of problems with liquidity, the interlocutor of the radio station said.

The banking crisis in Tajikistan began in 2015. Four commercial banks, Tochiksodirotbank, Agroinvestbank, Tojprombank, and Fononbank, had serious debts to depositors and partners. At the beginning of this year, the Tajik government has allocated over 3 billion 850 million somonis ($ 437.5 million) to improve the financial situation and rescue troubled banks from bankruptcy.

In June 2017, representatives of Tochiksodirotbank stated that the credit institution got over the crisis and is profitable since the first quarter of 2017. According to them, the bank sold its real estate and vehicles to return money to customers. However, thousands of depositors of the bank still cannot get their money back.

In December 2017, President Emomali Rahmon instructed the government to prepare a plan to rescue the troubled Tochiksodirotbank and Agroinvestbank as soon as possible. He noted that in 2017 the volume of loans issued by banks in comparison with 2016 had decreased by 4%, while savings of credit organizations decreased by 5%. The president chastised "the irresponsibility of the managers" of the affected financial structures among other reasons for the banking crisis.

Tochiksodirotbank and Agroinvestbank are the largest banks of Tajikistan. Their authorized capital, according to the National Bank, is 2.6 and 1.4 billion somonis ($ 297 and $ 165 million, respectively). As of 31 July 2017, Tajikistan's Ministry of Finance controlled 85.9% of Tochiksodirotbank and 87.3% of Agroinvestbank.

Fergana News Agency