December 5, 1999
By Tom Gross in Jerusalem
Was Congress aware of the following London Sunday Telegraph data, while
appropriating $400 million foreign aid to the PLO, in addition to the $500 million
already transferred to the PLO?! Should Congress tolerate the transfer of
the $400 million to the PLO before the GAO establishes transparency of PLO
accounts, including Arafat’s own bank accounts?!
Just like the most
corrupt rulers in the Third World, so does Arafat plunder his own people,
while expanding his own personal financial holdings. Shouldn’t Congress
MANDATE that foreign aid to the PLO be withheld until the GAO audit is
concluded, including Arafat’s personal bank account?!!!
THE Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has salted away billions of pounds for
the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in secret foreign bank accounts and
investments, including property in London.
The disclosure about the hidden wealth of his PLO comes amid deepening
economic hardship in his Gaza and West Bank fiefdoms. It will also hamper
his efforts to woo a huge influx of European aid for his fledgling
The timing of the disclosures could not have been more embarrassing as Mr
Arafat, seated before a stage built to resemble a giant Christmas crib,
yesterday opened Millennium celebrations in Bethlehem. He hopes that the
year of festivities in Jesus’s birthplace will showcase his push for an
independent Palestinian state.
New details of the vast PLO fortune he controls have come to light
following a series of computer break-ins at the headquarters of the
Palestine Liberation Organisation in Tunis.
The hackers discovered that the PLO maintains about Â£5 billion in numbered
bank accounts in Zurich, Geneva and New York. It also holds accounts with
smaller sums in north Africa, Europe and Asia. They are not registered in
the PLO’s name, but in the names of private individuals.
The records also showed that the PLO owns shares on the Frankfurt, Paris
and Tokyo stock exchanges, including stock in the German car giant Mercedes
Benz, and property in prestigious areas of European capitals, including
Mayfair in London.
The organisation, which once specialised in aircraft hijackings, also has
shares in several airlines, including the national carriers of the Maldives
and Guinea Bissau. The computer security breach is believed on the West
Bank to have been carried out by PLO officials disgruntled with Mr Arafat’s
leadership. “They wished to dispel the smokescreen created around the PLO’s
finances,” a Palestinian official told The Telegraph.
Mr Arafat has always refused to comment on reports about the foreign bank
accounts. But the disclosures caused anger in poverty-stricken Gaza. One
embittered Palestinian said:
“Why is he sitting on a mountain of gold,
while there is a desperate lack of jobs and medical supplies here?”
Mr Arafat is both president of the Palestinian Authority, the
semi-autonomous organisation that governs parts of Gaza and the West Bank,
and the chairman of the PLO, which maintains its headquarters in Tunis, its
base during its terrorist heyday.
The creation of the Palestinian Authority, the embryonic government for a
future Palestinian state, was supposed to lead to the winding-up of the PLO
– and make the Palestinian leadership accountable and law-abiding. But the
authority has in fact been repeatedly accused by domestic opponents of
rampant corruption and mismanagement.
The web of secret bank accounts and assets held around the world is
believed to be so complex that only Mr Arafat himself and two of his most
trusted aides know the overall picture. Much of the money is the result of
“taxes” levied on Palestinians working in Kuwait and other Gulf states in the
Seventies and Eighties, and of donations from wealthy states such as Saudi
The assets are controlled by Mr Arafat himself and it is not known what
would happen to them if the 70-year-old, who is said to be suffering from
Parkinson’s disease, should die. An Israeli intelligence analyst said:
“These revelations are almost certainly not the whole story. No one can
know the full extent of the PLO’s assets. They are so well hidden.”
The disclosures are also likely to prompt international donors, including
the European Union countries, to ask why Mr Arafat is still demanding aid
for his Palestinian authority. Nor will they have been impressed by his
decision to invite Slobodan Milosevic, Yugoslavia’s president, to Bethlehem.