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DEA denies letter lets Karzai's brother off the hook

A note from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has made Ahmed Wali Karzai, long suspected of enriching himself off Afghanistan's opium trade, a happy man.

"I think it's wonderful," he said by telephone from Kandahar. "I always mentioned that I am innocent. Fortunately, now I have proof."

But the letter, which Karzai refused to share, is being interpreted differently by the DEA.

According to spokesman Rusty Payne, the DEA Office of Records Management responded on July 21, 2010, to a request by Karzai's attorney for information about his client. The letter said that a search of documents found no file that identified Karzai as the subject of any DEA investigation.

Although Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai and the head of Kandahar's provincial council, considers the letter an "ironclad gold stamp of approval," according to a person familiar with the case, he is not necessarily absolved just yet.

The catch is that the DEA doesn't have to say whether there is an investigation underway or not.

"This correspondence should not be construed as confirmation or denial of any ongoing investigation, simply that an administrative search did not identify Mr. Karzai as the target of an investigation," Payne said. "It is DEA's policy not to confirm or deny any ongoing investigations."

By Joshua Partlow and Greg Miller  | October 6, 2010; 6:31 PM ET
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