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Afghan Businessman Faces Charges for Bribing US Soldiers

FILE - U.S. soldier watches trucks crossing Torkham gate border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan.

The owner of an Afghan trucking company contracted to move supplies for coalition soldiers in 2009 has been charged in U.S. federal court with bribing soldiers in order to get contracts worth millions of dollars.

A criminal complaint filed last week against Hikmatullah Shadman in U.S. District Court details a scheme involving trucking operations in southern Afghanistan and meetings with two U.S. Army members to hand them payments in bundles of $100 bills.

The two soldiers, Robert Green and David Kline, have both pleaded guilty for their roles. Green was sentenced in September to 10 months in prison and a year of supervision after his release. Kline was convicted in November and is due to be sentenced in January.

The complaint said Green first spoke with Shadman in January 2009 outside an office at Kandahar Air Field, saying he thought the trucking company owner had paid other soldiers and asking if he could receive money as well. It lays out the steps according to an account by Green, saying Shadman agreed to pay and followed through a few days later.

"When Green visited as instructed, Shadman pulled from his clothing a plastic bag containing $50,000, all in $100 bills. Shadman handed the bag to Green," reads the account.

More payments followed between that one and the last in April to the total of $140,000 in cash. In return, Green steered what the U.S. Justice Department said were 40 contracts to Shadman's company that together were worth about $3 million.

Kline at the time served as Green's superior officer, and the complaint said he asked Green to see if Shadman would pay him as well: "In the course of his cooperation with the government, Green described that, at Kline's request, Green spoke to Shadman who agreed to pay Kline $50,000. Green stated he accompanied Kline to Shadman's compound where he witnessed Shadman give Kline a stack of cash which Green estimated to be approximately $50,000."

The document says Kline understood that in return, he would use his position to award future contracts to Shadman's company.

As a result of the criminal complaint, a judge issued an arrest warrant for Shadman on December 23. His current location is not clear.

The U.S. has been trying for several years to get some kind of justice related to the schemes involving inflated trucking contracts. In November 2012, the Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit seeking the forfeiture of $70 million held by Shadman's company at the Afghan National Bank in Kabul. That suit is still ongoing at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.