FactCheck Social Media

New Zealand is not giving millions of dollars to the Taliban

2021-09-01 13:00:07

The Statement

A Facebook post claims the New Zealand government is giving millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to gangs and the Taliban.

The August 23 post includes photos of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a group wearing Mongrel Mob vests and Taliban fighters in the Afghan presidential palace, alongside a quote attributed to Ms Ardern: “I want every taxpayer in NZ to know that I love giving away your hard earned taxes.”

“First I gave $2.75 million to the adorable and helpful MM (Mongrel Mob). Now I’ve given 3 million to the kind and generous Taliban. I am so kind i (sic) can’t believe myself,” the text continues.

At the time of writing the post had been shared more than 1000 times and viewed more than 120,000 times. Similar claims regarding funding for the Taliban are included in a YouTube video and several other Facebook posts (see examples here, here and here).

The Facebook post
 A Facebook post claims the NZ government gave the Taliban million. 

The Analysis

The New Zealand government has funded programs which involve members of the Mongrel Mob, but not the bikie gang itself. It has also provided humanitarian aid to international organisations in Afghanistan, however this funding was not directed to the Taliban.

In July, it was reported that Ms Ardern’s government allocated $NZ2.75 million in funding to a drug addiction program led by members of the Mongrel Mob. The funding came from the Proceeds of Crime Fund and not tax revenue.

The methamphetamine rehabilitation program, Kahukura, is run by an organisation called Hard2Reach, and its co-director, Harry Tam, has been a Mongrel Mob member for several decades.

Hard2Reach’s website says the government-funded Kahukura was initially run as a pilot led by a cluster of chapters of the Mongrel Mob called the Chaindogs in Hawkes Bay. It said the pilot program aimed “to address the poor health and high suicide rate in their Chaindog community” and had been successful.

Regarding the post’s Taliban claim, the government announced on August 20 it was providing $NZ3 million in humanitarian aid to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to help people affected by the recent conflict in Afghanistan.

In a press release, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the ICRC was “focusing on protection of civilians and provision of essential services including emergency health care, water and sanitation”.

She said the UNHCR was “providing a range of protection and assistance support” to internally displaced Afghans and Afghan refugees in neighbouring countries.

A Taliban spokesperson later thanked the New Zealand government for directing aid to help the Afghan people, however the Islamist militant group did not claim it was receiving the aid directly.

A spokesperson for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told AAP FactCheck via email the government “is not providing funding for the Taliban”.

The spokesperson said the ICRC and UNHCR were “providing humanitarian protection and assistance to crisis-affected Afghan communities and operate independently to the Taliban”.

“Both agencies are credible, effective international humanitarian organisations that deliver humanitarian assistance in line with international humanitarian principles.

“They have considerable experience of operating in complex environments and have systems in place to ensure aid reaches intended recipients.”

A spokesperson for the ICRC confirmed to AAP FactCheck in an email that the funding would be used for programs to assist victims of the conflict in Afghanistan.

These programs included providing support for healthcare for war-wounded and other patients, first aid training sessions, COVID-19 protective equipment to hospitals, limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation services and health services to detainees, the spokesperson said.

The ICRC would also fund “direct civilian assistance and programs such as providing improved access to water” and “select the recipients of assistance on the basis of need alone”.

“All funds donated to the ICRC are intended to assist people affected by the conflict, regardless of what side of a given conflict they might be on, and regardless of who the authorities in charge are,” the spokesperson said.

The UNHCR did not respond to an AAP FactCheck request for comment on the Taliban funding claim. However, the organisation’s website says it provides emergency assistance to refugees and assistance for displaced people who return home or are resettled.

The UNHCR says Afghanistan is the largest voluntary repatriation operation in its history. NZ contributed $US1,049,685 to the program on August 23; in comparison, the United Kingdom contributed more than $US28 million while Germany contributed more than $US11 million.

The website did not specify whether Taliban refugees would be among those eligible for aid as part of the program.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
 Jacinda Ardern’s NZ government has funded aid work in Afghanistan. 

The Verdict

The New Zealand government has not directly funded the Mongrel Mob, as suggested in the post, however it did allocate $NZ2.75 million to a drug rehab program partly run by members of the gang. The program’s funding did not come from tax revenues as claimed but rather from assets seized from criminals.

The government has not given $NZ3 million in funding to the Taliban. Rather, it has funded two international aid agencies to provide healthcare and help refugees in Afghanistan. This funding is not being administered by or directed to the Islamist group.

Partly False – Content that has some factual inaccuracies.

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