The cash and now the gold are most often taken to Dubai, where officials are known for asking few questions. Many wealthy Afghans park their money and families in the emirate, and gold dealers say more middle-class Afghans are sending money and gold — seen as a safeguard against economic ruin — to Dubai as talk of a postwar-economic collapse persists.
But given Dubai's reputation as a haven for laundered money, an Afghan official said the "obvious suspicion" is that at least some of the apparent growth in gold shipments to Dubai is tied to the myriad illicit activities that have come to define Afghanistan's economy.
There are also indications that Iran could be dipping into the Afghan gold trade. It is already buying up dollars and euros to circumvent U.S. and European sanctions, and it may be using gold for the same purpose.
Before officials can say whether the gold shipments are part of an illicit financial scheme, they first have to figure out how much gold is going out — or coming in.It would be a mystery if gold wasn't being shipped out of this country.