19:12 GMT16 May 2021
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    In line with a contract worth over $700 million, the defendants in the case had been employed by a US government contractor to recruit language experts to serve in support of American military operations in Afghanistan.

    Six former linguist recruiters of a US government contractor are each facing years behind bars after being indicted by a grand jury on Thursday on charges of conspiracy and fraud, according to a statement by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

    An American government contract valued at over $700 million with an Arlington, Virginia-based government contractor saw the defendants employed as linguist recruiters for US military operations.

    In this file photo US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009.
    © AFP 2021 / MANPREET ROMANA
    In this file photo US Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade wait for helicopter transport as part of Operation Khanjar at Camp Dwyer in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on July 2, 2009.

    The former employees - Mezghan N. Anwari, 41, of Centerville, Virginia, Abdul Q. Latifi, 45, of Irvine, California, Mahjoba Raofi, 47, of San Diego, California, Laila Anwari, 54, of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Rafi M. Anwari, 54, of Centerville, Virginia, and Zarghona Alizai, 48, of Annandale, Virginia – allegedly hired and deployed unqualified linguists with the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

    “The defendants in this case allegedly engaged in an expansive conspiracy to enrich themselves at the expense of American soldiers and military operations in Afghanistan,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

    ‘Phony’ Translator Scheme

    Among other things, the defendants are charged with knowingly recruiting linguists who lacked minimum language skills in Dari or Pashto – the two languages of Afghanistan with official status.

    Afghanistan
    © Sputnik / Alexander Grashenkov
    Afghanistan

    During oral proficiency interviews, they ostensibly arranged for other individuals, boasting better knowledge of the languages in question, to impersonate the unqualified candidates.

    Furthermore, on occasion, the defendants themselves posed as phony translator candidates during interviews.

    The six recruiters, who are scheduled to make their first appearance in court on 5 May, stood to make an impressive profit from the scheme they allegedly crafted. While receiving a base salary, they also stood to pocket a series of incentive-based bonuses.

    The size of the latter hinged on how far through a multi-step vetting process a recruited candidate progressed, according to the DOJ.

    Afghan security forces and U.S. soldiers
    © AP Photo / Rahmat Gul
    Afghan security forces and U.S. soldiers
    “The defendants in this case allegedly engaged in an expansive conspiracy to enrich themselves at the expense of American soldiers and military operations in Afghanistan. Fraud and abuse of U.S. government contracts paid for by the American taxpayer, and designed to support our men and women uniform, will not be tolerated," stated Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas McQuaid of the DOJ’s Criminal Division.

    After the indictment, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko praised special agents and their partners in the probe for uncovering the scheme that allegedly "put American troops at greater risk in a combat zone".

    All six defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, according to the DOJ.

     

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    Tags:
    US Armed Forces, Afghanistan, military contractors, Department of Justice, Department of Justice, DOJ
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