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Afghanistan's Sole WSOP Bracelet Winner Who Nearly Bankrupted Country Dies In Prison

Sherkhan Farnood Passes Away During 15-Year Prison Sentence


Sherkhan Farnood, the only poker player hailing from Afghanistan to win a World Series of Poker bracelet, died in prison at the age of 57 this month near Kabul.

Farnood is the man known for nearly destroying Afghanistan’s nascent economy nearly a decade ago.

According to The National, Farnood founded and was a large owner of Kabul Bank, which at the time was the country’s first private bank and largest financial institution. He died while serving a 15-year sentence for money laundering and embezzlement stemming from a nearly $1 billion Ponzi scheme.

His bank held large cash deposits that the U.S. gave the country in the form of military and economic aid. In reality, the money was used in part to enrich Farnood.

“The demise of Kabul Bank was proportionately one of the largest financial scandals ever and became symbolic of the West’s frustration at the crony capitalism of Hamid Karzai’s government,” the report said. “The brazen corruption behind the scandal shook American faith in its nation-building ambitions.”

Additionally, “the bank was often cited as proof the country was recovering with Western help from the Taliban rule of the 1990s,” but it was “in fact just a giant Ponzi scheme.”

The bank was so corrupt that more than 90 percent of its loan portfolio (nearly $900 million) was handed out to just 19 individuals or companies, the report said.

Kabul Bank reportedly used the primitive technique of having airline pilots smuggle suitcases stuffed with cash out of the country. Farnood used some of the money on real estate.

The bank’s losses reportedly represented a whopping five percent of Afghanistan’s GDP. The scandal sparked a run on the bank and the government had to bail it out to prevent economic crisis. The bank run sparked violent clashes between customers, state workers and police.

“In those precarious days, depositors mobbed Kabul Bank and withdrew an estimated $800 million in about two weeks,” said a 2011 Washington Post article. “The panic prompted the Afghan government to pour $450 million into the bank’s coffers to stave off collapse.”

The corruption was so rampant that the U.S. government decided to freeze $3.9 billion worth of aid slated to go to Afghanistan, per a 2010 report from

Farnood won a £2,500 H.O.R.S.E event at the 2008 World Series of Poker Europe for $141,759. He recorded more than $600,000 in tournament earnings, including four WSOP final tables.



almost 4 years ago

Sounds like justice was served. Stealing American tax-payer money by the suitcase load literally.