Taliban spokesperson wrongly names Australian firm as cannabis partner

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A small Australian medical consulting firm has spoken out after being wrongly named by a Taliban spokesperson as agreeing to bankroll a $450 million hashish processing plant in Afghanistan.

A report by Afghanistan’s Pajhwok Afghan News said representatives of Australia-based Cpharm had met with counter-narcotic officials at the Ministry of Interior to discuss producing medicines and creams at the factory, offering a legal use of cannabis, which is widespread there.

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On Wednesday, Taliban Press Director Qari Saeed Khosty claimed a contract had been signed and said that the project will be up and running ‘within days’ – comments that were widely published.

But Cpharm Australia, a family business with 17 staff from the regional center of Maitland, has never spoken to the Taliban and has no dealings overseas or involving cannabis, the company told Reuters.

“We’re just trying to work out what we’re going to do to stop it,” Cpharm Australia’s chief financial officer, Tony Gabites, reportedly told Reuters by phone from the company’s headquarters, located 166 kilometer (100 miles) from Sydney.

“We’ve had probably 40 or 50 calls today. It’s just out of control and it’s just all lies.”

Gabites suspected the reports stemmed from a tweet from a Taliban-linked account which named a company called Cpharm, referring to another organization elsewhere in the world with a similar name.

Cpharm Australia provides medical advice about pharmaceutical products and is not a manufacturer so would not take on a manufacturing contract in any case. It also would not be able to raise $450 million, Gabites added.

The company may take legal recourse if it lost business due to wrongly reported Taliban dealings – a potential violation of sanctions – but did not expect to be impacted long-term.

With Reuters

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