Poker Champion Dies in Afghan Jail

prison cells

After being arrested in 2011 on charges stemming from running a Ponzi scheme, top Afghanistan poker player Sherkhan Farnood has died in a military prison in Bagram.

From poker to finance

In 2002, Sherkhan Farnood began his foray in the poker world, competing in live tournaments, starting with the Midnight Sun Tournament in Helsinki. Farnood did quite well during the series, finishing fourth and ninth in two tournaments. In the following years, Farnood would go on take part in several major events, including the World Series of Poker in 2003.

Over time, Farnood was able to amass just over $627,000 in live total earnings, earning number one spot on Afghanistan’s All Time Money List, according to the Hendon Mob. The largest cashout for the poker pro was during the 2006 WSOP $1,500 Pot Limit Omaha event, when he finished second and earned $165,274.

His first and only WSOP win took place in 2008 during a Limit H.O.R.S.E. event, where he took home $140,039. When he earned the gold bracelet, Farnood outlasted several top poker pros at the final table, including Howard Lederer and Phil Ivey.

According to Calvin Ayre, Farnood decided to move on from poker gaming to the financial world, running the Kabul Bank, a private banking organization located in Afghanistan. He also worked in other positions, one within a Moscow business that focused on the financial industry.

In 2011, Farnood was arrested for being involved in a Ponzi scheme involving the Kabul Bank, where close to $800m (€686m) was embezzled from money that was supposed to be used to rebuild the country.

According to the charges, Farnood used his connections with former president Hamid Karzai to run the scheme, siphoning off money that was used to complete land deals in Dubai as well as build golf villas.

Prison sentence

The actions completed by the poker champion led him to face prosecution and he was sentenced to five years in prison. The $800m (€686m) in stolen funds were to be repaid as part of his punishment.

Fast-forward three years after the sentencing, and Farnood’s jail time was increased to a total of 15 years after it was revealed that the Kabul Bank was just a Ponzi scheme that worked to embezzle and launder funds, along with forgery, instead of actually functioning as a bona fide financial institution.

Farnood was sent to a military prison in Bagram to complete his sentence, where he died last week on August 24th, reportedly from heart disease. Farnood was aged 55 at the time of death.

It has been reported that Farnood’s family is not sure if heart disease is an accurate cause of death. According to family members, the last time that they had spoken to him, he had seemed fine.

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