Relations between Britain and Afghanistan deteriorated further yesterday after a former British Army officer employed by a security firm in Kabul was sentenced to two years in an Afghan jail after being convicted of bribery.
Bill Shaw, who was a soldier for 28 years and awarded the MBE, will be jailed within days at the tough Pul-e-Charkhi prison, on the outskirts of Kabul.
Shaw is the senior Afghanistan manager for the British security group G4S, which is responsible for protecting the UK’s embassy in Kabul and diplomatic staff.
The charges against him were championed by President Hamid Karzai’s government.
It comes amid diplomatic tensions between Britain and Karzai as pressure has mounted on the Afghan leader to tackle corruption and raise standards of government in the war-torn country.
Shaw was arrested by the Afghan security service on March 4 and charged with bribery and corruption for allegedly paying $20,000 (£13,000) to Afghan officials for the return of two of his firm’s armoured vehicles that were impounded last October.
Shaw said he thought the vehicles had been seized due to licencing irregularities and he had given a lawful payment for their release, not a bribe. He was also fined $25,000 (£16,000).
The ex-Royal Military Police officer was one of the first to face charges at the Anti-Corruption Tribunal. The body was set up under British pressure at the start of this year and is being paid for by the UK taxpayer.
Diplomats admitted Shaw, who denied the charges against him, had fallen foul to the weakening relations between the Karzai government and British officials.
Shaw’s co-defendant, an Afghan called Maiwand Limar, was sentenced to two years by a panel of three judges working for the anti-corruption tribunal. The legal body is funded by Britain as part of a crack down on corruption in Afghanistan.
Kimberley Motley, a lawyer acting for Shaw, said an appeal would be lodged immediately.
She said Shaw tried for weeks to obtain a receipt for the transaction after handing over the money, proving his claim that he believed it was a legitimate payment, and voluntarily attended investigators’ interviews.
She added: ‘For some reason [the tribunal] decided not to follow Afghan law or the UN conventions to which Afghanistan is a party.
Furthermore, the presumption of innocence did not exist for him.’
Shaw, who was in the Royal Military Police for 20 years, was not given access to a translator so that he could follow the court proceedings.
A spokesman for G4S said the charges against Shaw and Limar were ‘totally misconceived, not proven in court’.
Pul-e-Charkhi prison is notoriously overcrowded and authorities have had to fight the influence of Taliban prisoners, who at one stage took over a complete wing of the building. Guards recently won back control.
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said last night: ‘We are aware of the verdict and will continue to monitor the case closely.
‘We will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr Shaw.’