Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat personally pocketed over $5 million in foreign aid money intended for needy Palestinians, depositing it into his personal bank account, according to the Arab daily Al-Watan.
Even worse, the newspaper claims Arafat also diverted aid money from Arab states – earmarked for those who had lost homes in the recent Israeli incursion into the West Bank – and invested it to increase his stock holdings in a concrete company, thereby profiting from rising concrete prices resulting from increased demand for construction materials to rebuild the destroyed Palestinian housing.
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Last Friday's edition of Al-Watan published the following report. It was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI:
- Yesterday, Al-Watan received documents from private sources in the Cairo branch of an Arab bank showing that Yasser Arafat had deposited in his name $5.1 million into a personal account. According to sources, this is theft of Arab aid funds allocated to the Palestinians through an arrangement between Arafat and his Cairo office head Ramzi Khouri.
The sources added that according to the documents, these funds were deposited in the personal accounts of President Arafat to cover some of the president's personal expenses, including the costs of his wife Suha and their daughter who live in Paris and Switzerland.
The sources added that nobody knows of this theft, with the exception of some of Arafat's closest cronies, including his Cairo office head Ramzi Khouri and Khaled Slam, originally from Iraq, whose real name is Muhammad Rashid and who is one of Arafat's top "and most influential" advisors.
The sources added that some weeks ago Muhammad Rashid had bought, on Arafat's instructions, 14 percent of the shares of the Jordanian Cement Company for the PSCS [Palestine Commercial Services Company] with funds received by Arafat from the Arab Gulf states, "to increase the profits of Arafat's investments abroad," in light of the increase in cement prices following increased demand due to the reconstruction of what the Israeli forces destroyed in their recent incursion into the West Bank cities.
The sources added that the funds that reached the Palestinian Authority from Kuwait and the other Gulf states [meant] for the Committee for the Reconstruction of Hebron Homes, [which were to be distributed to residents of homes] destroyed by Israeli bulldozers during the Intifada, did not reach the people entitled to them. Rather, they were distributed to the PA leaders close to Arafat and to several top officials of the Fatah movement, headed by Arafat.
The sources added that the citizens entitled to these funds appealed to the head of the committee, a Hebronite from the Al-Qawasmeh family, but received nothing.
The sources added that most of the food aid sent to the PA was sold in Palestinian and Israeli markets without being distributed to the poor and needy, and the latter began to shout "at the top of their lungs" that a popular committee must be established for aid distribution, since they had lost all faith in the PA and its apparatuses.
Al-Watan added to this news item photos of the documents received from its Cairo sources regarding the deposit of U.S. $5.1 million by Arafat into his personal account in the Arab Bank in Cairo.
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