Al-Jazeera has reported that a "bitter fight [has] broken out over who should control [Arafat's] fortune, estimated to be between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion." This is probably the highest estimate of Arafat's wealth, with others ranging between $300 million and $3 billion. A report by Forbes magazine in March of 2003 reported that Arafat was rated #6 on the list of the world's richest "Kings, Queens and Despots." A CBS report last year stated, "U.S. officials estimate Arafat's personal nest egg at between $1 billion and $3 billion."

It is widely known that Arafat purposely blurred the line between money given to the PLO, the Palestinian Authority and himself, and that it will not be easy to separate them once his death is finalized. Al-Jazeera reports that he owns a number of hotels and holiday resorts in Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Austria; is the main shareholder in two cellular telephone companies operating in Tunisia and Algeria; and is in partnership in some of his businesses with Arab politicians and entrepreneurs such as Rifaat Assad, a brother of the late Syrian President Hafez Assad.

A CBS "60 Minutes" report of March 2003 gave many details about Arafat's fortune and how he mis-used it. Excerpts:

Yasser Arafat diverted nearly $1 billion in public funds to insure his political survival, but a lot more is unaccounted for. .. Although the money for [his] portfolio came from public funds like Palestinian taxes, virtually none of it was used for the Palestinian people; it was all controlled by Arafat. And, [accountant] Prince says, none of these dealings were made public... Martin Indyk, a top adviser on the Middle East in the Clinton administration and now head of the Saban Center, a Washington think-tank, says Arafat was always traveling the world, looking for handouts... "Arafat for years would cry poor, saying, 'I can't pay the salaries, we're gonna have a disaster here, the Palestinian economy is going to collapse,'" says Indyk. "And we would all mouth those words: 'The Palestinian economy is going to collapse if we don't do something about this.' But at the same time, he's accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars."

...Dennis Ross, who was Middle East negotiator for the first President Bush and President Clinton, and now heads the Washington Institute for Near East Policy [says that] Arafat's "walking-around money" financed a vast patronage system. "I used to see that people came in, you know, with their requests," Ross says. "'I need a phone. I need an operation. I need a job.' Arafat had money to dispense." ... All told, U.S. officials estimate Arafat's personal nest egg at between $1 billion and $3 billion... According to Israeli officials, [Suha Arafat] gets $100,000 a month from Arafat out of the Palestinian budget, and lives lavishly in Paris on this allowance. He also uses the money to bolster his own standing. Both Israeli and U.S. sources say those recent outpourings of support at Arafat's compound were "rent-a-rallies," and that Arafat has spent millions to support terrorists and purchase weapons.

Did he steal from his own people? "He defines himself as being the embodiment of the Palestinian people," Ross answers. "So what's good for him is good for them. Did they benefit? The answer is no. Did they lose? The answer is yes."

...[Much money was] sent to Switzerland, to the prestigious Lombard Odier Bank, for yet another secret investment account that held over $300 million. In a letter obtained by CBS News, [Arafat-aide Muhammed] Rashid tells the bank that the funds will come from Palestinian "taxes" and "customs revenues." ... Minister Fayyad says that this pot of money, too, was available only to Arafat. The Swiss account was closed out in 2001. No one really knows where that money is today...

The PLO's former treasurer told us he saw Saddam Hussein hand Arafat a $50 million check for supporting him during the first Gulf War. And there were other large gifts from the KGB and the Saudis. Ross says, "Arafat used to say to me, 'Where's my money? You need to go to the Saudis and get my money.' It was never the Palestinians' money." ...