Monday, August 16, 2004

Arafat 'heaped cash' on cronies - Times of London

THE Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, has enriched a privileged inner circle of cronies and salted away billions of dollars in secret bank accounts, according to his former treasurer.

Jaweed Al-Ghussein, 74, described last week how, during his 12 years as chairman of the Palestine National Fund, the financial arm of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, he gave Arafat a monthly cheque for $10.25m — amounting to $123m (£67m) every year.

He was told the money was being spent on the Palestinian movement’s paramilitaries and on families who had lost “martyrs” in the struggle.

He was troubled by Arafat’s fondness for a system of patronage whereby he would hand bodyguards wads of cash from a briefcase he kept in his office and instruct them to take it to individuals he had decided to help. Each day the briefcase would be refilled from bank accounts that Arafat controlled.

Al-Ghussein, who resigned in protest at Arafat’s financial practices in 1996, has urged his former friend to let a new leader take over the Palestinian Authority.