Sherkhan Farnood

WSOPE Bracelet Winner Sherkhan Farnood Dies in Afghanistan Jail

Prominent Afghan banker and prior World Series of Poker Europe (WSOPE) bracelet winner Sherkhan Farnood has died in an Afghanistan prison while serving a sentence for embezzlement inside the prominent bank he partly owned.

Farnood, 57, was an occasional participant in high-profile poker events when not busy with the operations of the Kabul Bank, which was embroiled in a $900 million embezzlement scandal focused on Farnood, who owned about 27% of the bank’s shares after founding the venture in 2004. Farnood was stripped of his passport in late 2010 after the Kabul Bank scandal became public, then placed on virtual house arrest, and he was finally convicted in 2014.

(Photo source: WSOP.com)

Farnood and another Kabul Bank exec, Khalilullah Ferozi, received 15-year prison sentences and a combined $500 million in fines for money laundering and embezzlement. Farnood was serving his term at a prison north of Kabul at the time of his death. Afghan news reports listed the cause of death as unspecified natural causes, bringing protestations from a brother who claimed to have spoken to Farnood just a day prior to his August 24 demise.

Still the all-time tournament money winner among Afghani players, Farnood’s claim to poker fame was his triumph in Event #2 of the 2008 WSOPE, £2,500 H.O.R.S.E. Farnood earned £76,999 (about $140,000 in exchange rates at the time) for his triumph over a 110-player field, along with his first and only WSOP bracelet. However, that wasn’t his largest poker cash; Farnood earned $165,274 for his runner-up showing in the 2006 WSOP’s Event #26B: $1,500 Pot-Limit Omaha (Rebuy), which was won by Eric Froelich.

Farnood led quite the playboy lifestyle until his corruption caught up with him. He had dual citizenship in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), though he played his poker under the Afghan flag. He owned 16 villas in Dubai, but was unable to visit any of them after being placed on house arrest in 2011.

Reports regarding Farnood’s climb to fortune hint at underworld connections. During the 1980s and 1990s he ran hawalas, unregulated money-lending services that are prominent in the region, while also running business operations out of Moscow, reportedly running into some difficulties with the Russian mafia. Farnood appeared to jump into legitimacy with the founding of the Kabul Bank, but his free-wheeling style eventually brought him down.

In 2009, Farnood used his prominent position at Kabul Bank to circumvent Afghanistan’s banking laws and obtain a loan for another of his companies, Kamir Airways. The $54 million loan allowed the company to acquire five antiquated, Russian-built Antonov planes, and just one year later, one of those planes crashed just north of Kabul, killing all 44 people on board. It was the second major loss-of-life crash involving Farnood’s Kam Air, and the circumstances behind the loan became an element of the larger embezzlement case he would face.

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