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Fake news over Aussie-Taliban cannabis deal sweeps global headlines — Analysis

An Australian small medical consulting firm was caught in the media firestorm after reports that Cpharm (Australian-based) had reached a deal with Taliban to help fund $450 million of cannabis processing plants.

On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s Pajhwok Afghan News reported that Cpharm Australia would invest $450 million in setting up a hashish-processing plant in Afghanistan, citing Interior Ministry spokesperson Qari Saeed Khosti.  

Khosti is cited again by media. They claim that representatives from an Australian firm met Taliban officials. The practical work at the plant will begin in the near future. According to the article, some creams and medications would soon be manufactured at the facility. 

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A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry was quoted saying that the Taliban desired to create a legal framework so the country could benefit from this banned product. Cpharm is said to have 10,000 acres of land available in Afghanistan, which could be used for cannabis cultivation despite the ban.

A number of international news agencies picked up the report, including The Times of London which named the Australian company. The claim was also shared by verified Twitter accounts that were linked to Al Arabiya, a Dubai-based news agency.

Cpharm Australia, however, rejected the reports on Thursday. Cpharm Australia’s chief financial officer, Tony Gabites, told Reuters that they had no dealings overseas or any involving cannabis. “We’re just trying to work out what we’re going to do to stop it,”He added.

“We’ve had probably 40 or 50 calls today. It’s just out of control and it’s just all lies, media guys… not doing any due diligence on what they want to publish,”He said.

Gabites said that the family-owned business, which employs 17 people, operates from Maitland in New South Wales. It offers advice on pharmaceutical products and wouldn’t be able raise $450 millions of funding.

“Most of the companies we deal with would look at that article and laugh,” Gabites said, but did not rule out legal proceedings if the business’ reputation was damaged.

Gabites believe the story began with an account linked to Taliban tweeting about Cpharm. This could have been another company that shares a similar name.

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