Ex-U.S. Envoy Khalilzad Subject of Money-Laundering Probe

A U.S. probe into alleged money laundering by Zalmay Khalilzad has led Austrian authorities to freeze a Vienna bank account linked to the former presidential envoy to Afghanistan.

Khalilzad, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, allegedly transferred $1.4 million to his wife’s bank account in Vienna, Austrian magazine Profil reported today, citing court documents. The money came from oil and building contracts in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates that allegedly violated U.S. laws, U.S. investigators told their Austrian counterparts, according to the papers cited by Profil.

Austrian court spokeswoman Christina Salzborn confirmed the documents’ authenticity in a telephone interview. Christian Bielesz, the lawyer for Khalilzad’s wife, Cheryl Benard, confirmed that the account was frozen and an investigation under way.

The U.S. had asked Austrian authorities not to seize Benard’s account, Bielesz said in a phone interview. A decision on whether to unfreeze the account is expected “quite soon,” he said.

The documents alleging the misconduct were part of a cache of papers retrieved from a garbage bin earlier this year by a Vienna-based blogger. Austria’s courts have instructed workers to take better care of sensitive information, Salzborn said.

‘No Charges’

“No charges have been brought anywhere in the world, including the United States and Austria, against Ambassador Khalilzad or Ms. Benard,” according to a statement issued on their behalf by Madison Estes, a spokeswoman for Khalilzad’s company, Gryphon Partners.

The U.S. Justice Department’s request to Austrian authorities “does not contain evidence of money laundering or other offenses on the part of Ambassador Khalilzad or Ms. Benard,” according to the statement.

Since leaving the State Department, Khalilzad founded Gryphon Partners, which “advises companies and high net worth individuals on business opportunities,” according to its website. He also sits on the board of Dubai-based RAK Petroleum, which operates in Iraq, and Guernsey, U.K.-based Tethy’s Petroleum, which produces in Central Asia. Khalilzad is a counselor to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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