These days every one is obsessed with Hosni Mubarak and his billions and no one bother specially among the Palestinians to ask and wonder what ever happened to the tens of billions of the PLO money and whatever happened to the billions that Arafat controlled? Money that simply disappeared and vanished and so far no credible accounting were ever published and no credible and thorough investigation was conducted of the billions looted from the PLO and PA treasuries.
The late Yasser Arafat who associates claimed lived the life of poor man sustaining himself on “zeit & za’ater, labaneh, and homous” amazed a fortune ranging between $ 1-4 billions (Time Nov. 14, 2004) during his tenure as head of the PLO. I remember asking two well known Palestinians with close association with Arafat and the PLO over tea at the Richmond Hotel in Geneva in April of 2005 how was it possible that Arafat was able to keep his power and authority over the PLO all these years without any one within the PLO or Palestine National Council raising any question or openly debating his failed and miscalculated policies? And their answer was quite simple” he controlled the money” and every one around him needed financial favors and he doled the money corrupting every one within Fatah and the PLO and PNC in efforts to keep control and keep himself in charge.
The PLO over the years amazed fortune in the tens of billions, money it raised from Arab countries and from levies charged by the Arab Gulf state on all Palestinian workers. The money would come to the private account of Arafat and not to the general account of the PLO as an organization; he then dispensed the money as he chose. The PLO also known to have invested billions in SAMED Industries run and managed by Ahmed Qurai, billions that simply disappeared and remains unaccounted for. There are no accounting of all the investments made by SAMED in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Most of the PLO investments were in “private” names and are lost forever.
However Arafat also make good use of the money for his own private and personal use. Oslo was a windfall for Arafat and his private fortune, with over $ 4 billions coming into the Palestinian Authority accounts, accounts under the personal control of Arafat. Israel was the largest contributor to Arafat fortune to the tune of $1 billions. It collected taxes and levies on imports and passed these directly to the private accounts of Arafat, some of which were deposited in Leumi Bank (Google Arafat billions and you will see reports from Brooking Institute, Time Magazine, Taipei Times and Israeli National News and CBS 60 Minutes).
While thousands of Palestinians in Dier Albalah were living in the open in the cold and rain, without tents after an Israeli raid, Arafat did not have the money to buy tents for these miserable people but found $200,000 a month to send to his wife Suha in Paris. Between July 2002 and July 2003, it was reported he transferred $ 11.4 millions to the private accounts of his wife Suha in Paris with Time Nov.21, 2007 claiming hundreds of millions registered in her own name.
Many Palestinians expressed fear that billions will simply disappear after Arafat death and it did. Azmi Shuaibi was reported to have told Forbes “ we are afraid if something happens to Arafat, we will not know where all the money is”. Later Salam Fayyad was quoted as saying “ there is corruption out there, there is abuse, there is impropriety and that what had to be fixed”. Jim Price an accountant, a member of the America team hired by the PA to investigate corruption was quoted “ we run into obstacles in a number of places, particularly among the old PLO type”.
Very few people know that Pierre Rizk, intelligence chief of the Lebanese Forces, the group that with the help of the Israelis who committed the mass murder of thousands in Sabra and Shatilla, became Suha’s financial advisor with a power of attorney and just before Oslo was granted by Arafat the concession to develop telecommunication infrastructure for the West Bank. His company International Technology Integrated (ITI) won $18 millions from the PA because the PA failed to award him the contract.
Mahmoud Abbas ordered tens of investigations into the corruption and abuse within the PA and so far no one ever heard or read any single and completed investigation. Arafat simply allowed himself and his cronies to loot public funds and rendered the Palestinians bunch of beggars and thieves. Question when will the Palestinian people demand and fund an independent investigation into the financing and corruption of the PLO and making full accounting of the people’s money. I publicly pledge $ 5,000 toward this end. The PLO/Fatah has so many millionaires it put to shame most politicians and “revolutionaries” around the world.
Sami Jamil Jadallah