Scandal-hit Kabul bank draws just one bidder

An Afghan consortium has bid to buy New Kabul Bank, the remnants of Afghanistan's largest private bank which collapsed in a fraud scandal, after four others withdrew, officials said Saturday.

Three domestic and two international groups had expressed interest in the bank, but by deadline Saturday only one -- Ali Akbar Zhawandal consortium -- had stepped forward, central bank governer Norullah Delawari said.

The value of the offer was not disclosed at a news conference. Delawari said a government evaluation committee will examine the merits of the bid and a decision can be expected in April.

Kabul Bank was seized by the government in 2010 after the exposure of a staggering $900 million fraud, which led the International Monetary Fund to temporarily halt its hundreds of millions of dollars of loans to the country.

Renamed New Kabul Bank, the institution was bailed out by the government.

In November last year a foreign-funded inquiry found a sophisticated network of corruption that saw vast sums of money smuggled abroad as well as political interference in criminal proceedings.

Twenty-two people have been charged with causing the bank's collapse through fraud and corruption, and a special tribunal is expected to deliver its verdict this month.

A number of well-connected people allegedly implicated in the scandal as shareholders, including a brother of President Hamid Karzai, have not been charged.

Western donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid after NATO combat troops withdraw from insurgency-racked Afghanistan in 2014, but have conditioned payment on corruption being brought under control.