Afghan high-ranking politician Mohammad Mirza Katawazai, who found himself at the center of a scandal in Tajikistan involving US$15 million in cash and some 90 kilograms of gold bars seized from smugglers at the Dushanbe airport in November last year, was relieved of his post of  Vice-Speaker of the Wolosi Jirga (Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament). 

A source within Afghan parliament told Radio Ozodi on March 10 that Ahmad Javid Jaihoon was elected Vice-Speaker of the Wolosi Jirga on Sunday March 7.  

“Because of gold and cash allegations, Mohammad Mirza Katawazai has decided not to run for the post of parliament vice-speaker,” the source noted.  

Recall, Mohammad Mirza Katawazai rejected the claim by Afghan media that he is linked to the cash and gold smuggling.

“These [allegations] are all nonsense. I’m a politician, not a businessman,” he told reporters in Dushanbe on February 28.

According to Radio Liberty, the shock allegation was first made by Afghanistan’s 1TV channel, which said the powerful politician had been "behind the smuggling attempt" involving "dozens of kilograms of gold and millions of dollars" in cash that were discovered and seized by Tajik customs officials.

The channel reportedly dropped the bombshell claim on its primetime news program on February 27, the day Katawazai arrived in Dushanbe on an official visit.  He was part of a parliamentary delegation led by Mir Rahman Rahmani, speaker of the Wolosi Jirga.

Meanwhile in Kabul, the Afghan Interior Ministry told the 1TV channel that it has begun gathering information to launch a probe into the claims against Katawazai.

1TV said it obtained its information linking Katawazai to the smuggled money from multiple sources but didn’t disclose their identities.  The broadcaster also didn't produce any evidence to back its claims, according to Radio Liberty.

The broadcaster reportedly also alleged that several other people -- including police, local government officials, and customs services workers -- have been involved in the smuggling.

The Customs Service under the Government of Tajikistan said on February 19 that the gold bars and money had been illegally transported from Afghanistan by a group of smugglers.  The group reportedly attempted to send the cash and gold bars to the United Arab Emirates on a flight from the Dushanbe airport.  But the goods were discovered and seized before they were loaded onto the plane.

Officials said three customs service employees at a Tajik-Afghan border crossing were detained and charged with "negligence" for failing to properly inspect the goods coming into Tajikistan.

The Customs Services said seven people have been detained in connection with the case. No names or further details were made public by authorities.