NEW YORK (CNN) — A former senior spokesman for the ousted Taliban government in Afghanistan has been arrested for tax evasion.
Noorullah Zadran, once first secretary for the U.S. office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, pleaded not guilty Thursday to four counts of tax fraud in Manhattan federal court, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York.
Zadran “failed to report on his income tax returns all of his salary and other income that he received in the course of his employment” from 1998 to 2001, said David Kelley, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The former Taliban envoy was released after he posted $50,000 bail and surrendered his passport.
Zadran’s travels are restricted to New York City and Connecticut until his next court appearance on December 13.
“Obviously times have been better but he’s fine. He’s dealing with the charges and the allegations,” Zadran’s attorney, Margaret Shalley, told CNN.
During his tenure as a top Taliban spokesman in the United States, Zadran defended the Taliban’s decision to allow al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to remain in Afghanistan.
He also lobbied, unsuccessfully, for U.N. recognition of the government.
Even when the Taliban controlled most of the country, the United Nations would only recognize a representative from the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader who preceded the Taliban.
Zadran consistently described bin Laden as a “guest” in Afghanistan, and said the Taliban told him “quite clearly that no political or military threat of any nature would be tolerated from the soil of Afghanistan.”
In an effort to force the handover of bin Laden, the U.N. Security Council tightened sanctions in December 2000 and forced Taliban offices to close.
In February 2001, Zadran’s office in Flushing, Queens, was closed.