Donor countries have yet to respond to revelations by former Palestinian intelligence official Fahmi Shabaneh that top Palestinian Authority officials are continuing to pocket millions of dollars earmarked for financial aid to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Shabaneh expressed frustration over the way the international media has been handling his exposures: “Don’t the Americans, Europeans and Arabs care about their money that is being stolen? If they continue to turn a blind eye to the corruption of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas will eventually take over the West Bank the same way they took the Gaza Strip.”
Nearly a month after Shabaneh, who headed the anti-corruption unit in the General Intelligence Service, revealed in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post that some of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s close aides and loyalists had siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars to private bank accounts, decision-makers in the US and EU continue to bury their heads in the sand.
The foreign media has continued to cover the story as if it were only a “sex scandal” in Abbas’s bureau - a reference to a videotape revealed by Shabaneh showing Rafik Husseini, director of the president’s bureau, naked in a woman’s bedroom.
Following are examples of some of how, according to Shabaneh, international aid to the Palestinians is being “hijacked” by “thieves and thugs in the inner circle of Mahmoud Abbas.”
- Thousands of civil servants whose names appear on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority either do not exist or have never reported for work. The Palestinian Authority has more than 150,000 registered civil servants whose salaries are paid by American, European and Arab governments. Shabaneh’s investigations showed that senior officials in the president’s office and the Palestinian Ministry of Finance have been “diverting” millions of dollars of these payments to their private bank accounts every month.
- Just before the January 2006 parliamentary election, the US gave $3.2 million to help Fatah boost its image among Palestinians. The goal was to prevent Hamas from winning the vote back then. [Hamas did win in the end]. Shabaneh says that his investigations showed that the money was given to an advertisement company owned by Abbas’s family and that most of the money had “vanished.”
- A former minister in the Palestinian Authority convinced Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, to give him about $5 million of international aid so that he could purchase lands in Jerusalem before Jews lay their hands on them. Shabaneh’s investigations showed that the minister deposited most of the money in his private bank account and had built a huge and luxurious villa on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
- Shabaneh’s inquires also found that Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Abbas advisor and Fatah official, took about $1.5 million from Arafat and Abbas under the pretext that he, too, wanted to purchase land that would otherwise end up in the hands of Jews. Ahmed’s brother, who served as the PLO’s lawyer in Jordan, is also suspected, according to Shabaneh’s files, of defrauding the Palestinian Authority into paying him millions of dollars for fictitious land deals.
- Shabaneh discovered that a former Finance Minister in the Palestinian Authority had deposited $8 million in his private bank account. When Shabaneh demanded explanations, he was told to mind his own business.
These are only a few samples of the hundreds of cases Shabaneh dealt with when he was in his job, according to the former Palestinian intelligence official, who is now “wanted” by the Palestinian Authority on charges of “collaboration with the Israeli enemy.” . He maintains that he has many of the documents and files to back up his charges that the Palestinian Authority and many of its leaders and representatives are continuing to steal financial aid.
“This is not only about a sex scandal,” Shabeneh stressed. The sex scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. Shabaneh says that since Abbas appointed him as the chief corruption-buster in the Palestinian Authority six years ago, he has collected incriminating evidence against dozens of senior officials, in addition to the president’s two sons, Yasser and Tarek. “I don’t know why most people in the West are treating this case as if it were only about a senior official caught naked in a woman’s bedroom.”
Abbas, meanhwile, has cut off Shabaneh's salary to punish him for speaking out against corruption -- as the international community and the media, through their silence, continue empowering Hamas.