by Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, including President Mahmoud Abbas, are deeply concerned that Rashid's revelations could expose their role in the embezzlement of public funds. They are also concerned that Rashid's revelations could prompt some Americans and Europeans to reconsider their decision to pour millions of dollars into the Palestinian Authority's coffers. What is needed is an independent Commission of Inquiry to restore pubic funds belonging to the Palestinian people. The Palestinians have many Mohammed Rashids...
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has just discovered what every Palestinian child knows -- that hundreds of millions of dollars had been embezzled during the era of Yasser Arafat.
The "discovery", however, was not the result of a thorough and long investigation ordered by Palestinian leaders in Ramallah with the hope of restoring public funds.
Instead, it came after one of Arafat's most trusted aides, Mohammed Rashid, threatened to expose corruption scandals in the Palestinian Authority.
For many years, Rashid served as Arafat's financial advisor and was given a free hand to handle hundreds of millions of dollars that were poured on the Palestinian Authority and the PLO by US, EU and Arab donors.
A former journalist who used to earn less than $1,000 a month by working for a PLO newspaper, Rashid is now considered one of the wealthiest Palestinians anywhere. Palestinian Authority officials have estimated his fortune at more than half a billion dollars.
Rashid left the Palestinian territories almost immediately after his boss, Arafat, died in late 2004. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has almost nothing to bring him to trial or return at least some of the missing funds.
This week, however, the Palestinian Authority finally woke up and remembered that Rashid was suspected of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Palestinian Authority's Anti-Corruption Commission in Ramallah announced that it has issued an arrest warrant against the former Arafat advisor and asked Interpol for help in bringing him to trial.
The announcement came a day after Rashid appeared on a Saudi-owned TV station and threatened to expose corruption scandals in the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, including President Mahmoud Abbas, are deeply concerned that Rashid's revelations could seriously embarrass them and expose their role in the embezzlement of public funds.
They are also worried that Rashid's revelations could prompt some Americans and Europeans to reconsider their decision to pour millions of dollars into the Palestinian Authority's coffers.
Rashid, after all, was not a junior official in the Palestinian Authority. He was an insider, someone who was very close to Arafat and probably the only official who knows where hundreds of millions of dollars ended up.
The Palestinian Authority's decision to issue an arrest warrant against him does not seem to worry Rashid, who this week demanded a probe into Abbas's personal fortune, which he estimated at more than $100 million.
So Abbas is saying that Rashid stole hundreds of millions of dollars, while Rashid is accusing the president of embezzling "only" $100 million. This is happening at a time when international donors are continuing to channel more funds every month to the Palestinian Authority, often without holding its leaders accountable or demanding to know how the money is being spent.
What is needed is an independent commission of inquiry to restore the public funds belonging to the Palestinian people. The Palestinians have many Mohammed Rashids who turned into wealthy businessmen during the peace process with Israel -- thanks to the naivety of Americans and Europeans.Khaled Abu Toameh
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