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PA Official: PLO Corruption Dates Back to 1964

The head of the PA anti-corruption commission says financial corruption in the PLO dates back to its inception.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 1/2/2012, 9:04 PM

The Palestinian Authority anti-corruption commission announced Monday it was seeking to restore plundered public funds hidden abroad by PA officials.

Rafiq al-Natsheh told the PA affiliated Ma'an News Agency that the commission is chasing corruption suspects living outside PA enclaves pending an agreement with their countries of residence.

Natsheh's remarks follow a report in the Jordanian newspaper al-Dustour last week that PA officials were moving deposits from Jordanian banks to foreign accounts.

"If suspects accused of stealing public money (are moving funds abroad), that falls within our jurisdiction," al Natsheh said.

"We will ask these countries to help us restore the stolen public money," he said, adding he had faced no problems in recovering funds moved to foreign or Israeli banks.

"Transferring money anywhere (abroad) will not prevent us from calling suspects to account and restoring that money," the anti-corruption head said.

The history of the Palestinian Authority – only eighteen years in length – has been noted for extensive corruption from the outset.

PA officials have long sought to recover some $1 billion in pilfered funds from Suha Arafat, the widow of Fatah's iconic arch-terrorist and PA founder Yasser Arafat.

So widespread was corruption under Arafat that in 1997 he ordered all further corruption reports kept secret.

His successor, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has also been accused of fostering widespread corruption, but has not been targeted in the current anti-corruption probe. This despite numerous reports in recent years of PA funds in Amman and Cairo being plundered by Abbas.

However, in rare comments on the location of assets belonging to the PLO, al-Natsheh admitted that bank deposits and real estate collected by the PLO dating all the way back to its inception in 1964 had been entrusted to "trustworthy individuals" had yet to be recovered.

According to al-Natsheh, some of the money and property - which was supposed to be have been deposited into public accounts when the PA government was established in 1994 - remained in private hands.

He refused to comment on their total value, but observers say billions of dollars may be in play.

A year ago, the anti-corruption commission announced it had recovered $5 million from former officials charged with corruption, which critics say is immaterial when taken in the broader context of the PLO's embedded culture of corruption.

The anti-corruption commission is currently working on 145 cases of corruption, of which 13 have been referred to PA courts.