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Shagufta – the Mucky Doctor

This article is proper James Bond stuff.

When the FCO flew me out to Afghanistan for the first time, it was just for a weekend jaunt. Not my usual holiday stop, I prefer a nice beach usually.

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Just to waste a bit of taxpayers’ money, they flew me out and back business class. Not bad I thought as I flew out to Kabul.

When I arrived, there was no time to put my feet up after having spent 20 hours travelling and having a time difference to cope with. We had a busy schedule for the next three days. Meetings across Kabul, including me meeting the guy I was to mentor. A guy, in his mid-sixties who had previous training with the KGB. So, I thought, this is going to be interesting then…

I also met the cop in the job I was replacing. Nice guy. Paul he was called. We spent the following two days discussing everything Afghan, what I could expect and the like. On our first trip out into the city some insurgent or other nearly killed us both, which would have been very unlucky for us both – me because it was my first weekend and him because it was nearly his last.

They blew up a NATO convoy on a roundabout on Airport Road, which is notorious for that sort of thing, missing us by a few minutes or so. That evening Paul and I went for our evening meal, in Kabul airport (military side). I had just tucked into my main meal when the sirens started. Now if you ever meet me, you’ll see visually, I like my grub. So I thought it very rude to try and bomb us while eating. The height of rudeness, they could have waited until after dessert.

Definitely not British that.

Anyway, the usual terrorist rubbish. Mortars landing well short of the perimeter fence. They’d be dangerous if they had a clue. While in Afghan I saw some pictures of three dead Afghans who the coalition had killed because they attacked a guesthouse housing Spanish staff in Kabul. Their AK47’s were held together with gaffer tape. Poor. And that’s the standard.

By day three I was a little bit unkempt. Because somehow, they had lost my luggage on the journey there. And Kabul isn’t the place to enjoy a bit of retail therapy unfortunately. So I was having to give everything a ‘Gipton’ wash.

No soap.

When I was young I was poor, but after years of hard work, I am no longer young. And on this trip it reminded me of times when I was young when I went without soap. Tough times when Thatcher wasn’t just a milk snatcher in Liverpool. She also stole the innocence of children. No soap. As if. Anyway, back to my story.

I eventually got to meet everyone, conduct the meetings that were required for my handover. And it was time to fly home. At the airport, I was re-united with my luggage, which was odd because I thought they could’ve tried to get it to me. I went into the ‘business class’ departure lounge in Kabul.

Which was basically the departure lounge. They don’t do business class in Kabul – what a muppet I was.

We flew from Kabul to Istanbul on a rickety old plane but I did get to turn left when boarding. Something everyone should experience, not to Kabul though, maybe the Maldives or somewhere nice.

And this is where I met Shagufta.

She was in the seat next to me. She seemed nervous when I got on. I was one of the last to board. I’m not one of those types that has to be on first. Queueing to board a plane has never interested me. It’s like waiting for a second class stamp to deliver.

You get there. Eventually.

I got to use real cutlery and china (or was it porcelain?) plates for the onboard meal. Shagufta engaged me in conversation. She told me she was a Doctor. But I didn’t believe her. Her nails were dirty and I have never seen that on a Dr before. She said she was going to Norway where she practiced in a hospital. Bergen to be exact. When I told her I had been there several times in the Navy, she changed tack. Maybe she had never actually been?

There was definitely something amiss about Shagufta. She questioned me in detail about my role and motives for going to Afghanistan. I spun her a dit about wanting to make a change and I was doing admin for the FCO. I recounted to her seeing a young child approach our car as we drove through Kabul, he was begging. I expressed my sorrow to see that and she immediately turned the conversation to get me to give money to a charity she was involved with. All a bit suspicious to me.

At one point I made a mistake.

I got my phone out to show her a picture of my garden. A sanctuary in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. When I turned it out, it immediately ‘wobbled’, the screen flickered repeatedly and eventually settled. It had never done that before. Odd also because it was in flight mode.

Shagufta had a carry on. When the plane landed in Istanbul, she went to get it down. I insisted in helping her, she resisted but I am an English gent after all. IT WEIGHED A TON. And I mean a TON. I considered what could be so heavy.

Cash.

When I got through customs I spoke to one of the security staff and told him she needed searching. I have no clue if they found anything. Corruption in Afghanistan was absolutely rife. The Americans poured money in and the Afghans poured it out again. A lot. And I mean a lot.

And here is the James Bond stuff.

When I got to know my mentee, he was one of the most deceptive people I had ever/ will ever meet. Remember, trained by the KGB. I genuinely thought he had connections to the Taliban. If you read my other blogs, you’ll see why. No one, not even the Afghans trusted him. He was ‘persona non grata’ to most Afghan professionals, visibly shunned by them. Which is odd because they do not lightly disrespect each other. It’s an ‘honour’ thing.

Shagufta was travelling alone. That is almost unheard of for an Afghan woman. They are chaperoned everywhere. So lots of things didn’t add up about her. I just had that ‘cop’ gut feeling. Whether she was linked to my mentee I will never know but I got the distinct feeling she was digging to see who I was, why I was there, more so than is usual and definitely more than a lone Afghan woman should or would do. They usually won’t even look you in your eye, and you should never look in theirs while Afghan male company is around. It can get them beaten. She was digging to make sure I wasn’t going to cause my mentee a ‘problem’.

The intelligence on my mentee was vast. He was stealing anything and everything. Running drugs. You name it he had a hand in it. That was the guy I was supposed to teach western intelligence models to. Folly. And so when I got back to the UK my phone behaved oddly for a while. So I upgraded it. I got rid of it. Just in case something had happened to it on that flight. There were too many odd things that didn’t add up.

  • Lies about being a Dr
  • Probable lies about Bergen
  • On her own travelling
  • The weight of the bag
  • Her unsettled nature when I first boarded, she thought I wasn’t getting on?
  • The mentee I had being corrupt.
  • My luggage going missing.

The Safe Side

When you suspect something and you have that ‘gut’ feeling, it’s always best to act on it I find. I always acted on the front foot if I was dealing with a criminal. So if I suspected, they got lifted. I wouldn’t hesitate. I always acted.

If you suspect wrongdoing in your organisation, I get it can be a difficult itch to scratch. Especially if you just don’t have the evidence. You’re not the Police who can act on suspicion legally. You can’t in the workplace. It wouldn’t look good in a tribunal.

We’ve got Aranea to help you. An encrypted anonymous messaging platform that means you can have your whole team geared up to keep you in the loop without them having to enter the ‘evidence’ chain. And when you want to gather that evidence, call us. We’re here to help you.

Help you do the right thing.

Ask us for a demo. It take 10 minutes maximum. We’re not one of these systems that has a ton of stuff you’re not going to use. I stick to KISS. Keep it simple stupid.

So it is.

Simple.

Author Bio.

Andy Parr is a career detective and anti-money laundering expert. He served in the UK, Afghanistan and the Cayman Islands. He welcomes critical thought leadership and commentary to expand his own ability and advance the subject matter. Andy now leads HX5 Encrypted to help organisations get to the groundtruth in their organisation. Andy has led on every type of criminality you can think of. From murder to white collar crime and everything inbetween. Contact him to see how HX5 can help you.

Read all of Andy’s Posts here.