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Anti corruption chief going after foreign accounts
Published Monday 02/01/2012 (updated) 04/01/2012 10:01
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Palestinian government employees hold up "red cards" at a protest against
Labor Minister Ahmad Majdalani in front of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's
office in Ramallah on Nov. 29, 2011. Majdalani stood down on Thursday after
outrage at his unguarded comments broadcast on local radio cursing union
workers, the same week that Minister of Economy Hassan Abu Libdeh stood
down to face corruption charges. (REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The head of the PA anti-corruption commission said on Monday that the body is working to restore public funds stashed abroad by Palestinian officials.

Rafiq al-Natsheh told Ma'an that the commission is chasing corruption suspects living outside of Palestine, pending an agreement with their countries of residence.

Jordanian newspaper al-Dustour reported last week that Palestinian officials are moving deposits from Jordanian banks to foreign accounts, raising fears that suspects were trying to circumvent the corruption crackdown.

Al-Natsheh said the moving of deposits itself did not concern his commission, "but if suspects accused of stealing public money (are moving funds abroad), that falls within our jurisdiction."

"We will ask these countries to help us restore the stolen public money," he said, adding that he had faced no problems to date in trying to restore funds moved to foreign or Israeli banks.

"Transferring money anywhere (abroad) will not prevent us from calling suspects to account and restoring that money," the anti-corruption head said.

He did not name suspects being investigated or countries were they are alleged to have stored public funds.

Despite the Palestinian Authority's internationally-lauded efforts to crack down on corruption -- including the establishment of al-Natsheh's commission in 2010 -- the complexity of financial corruption in Palestinian institutions dating back decades has yet to be untangled.

In rare comments on the location of assets belonging to the PLO, the umbrella body representing Palestinians established in 1964, al-Natsheh said bank deposits and real estate collected by the organization had been temporarily entrusted to "trustworthy individuals," pending their restoration to the Palestinian Authority government, established in 1994.

Some of the money and property have not yet been restored, he told Ma'an, adding that the Authority and PLO were working on returning the public assets.

Palestinians privy to details of the issue said that return of the funds is being held up as the "entrusted individuals" wrangle of the percentage of the funds they can hold onto.

They did not elaborate on the size of the funds that may be shared between the PA and the account holders, but it is likely to run into many million of dollars. A year ago, the anti-corruption commission announced it had already recovered $5 million from former officials charged with corruption.

The anti-corruption commission is currently working on 145 cases of corruption, of which 13 have already been referred to courts. Two government ministers stepped down in 2011 after the commission referred their cases to court. Minister of Agriculture Ismail Daiq and Minister of Economy Hassan Abu Libdeh both deny the charges.

Al-Natsheh vowed on Monday to complete the mandate of his commission.

"It is our responsibility to follow up with any complaint we receive about any official, and if we find out that any money was taken illegally, we will interrogate that official and refer him to court.

"Any money gained illegally must be returned."
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1 ) Philly / Swedenn
02/01/2012 15:10
We are with you, Palestine! It makes me proud, as a Palestinian living abroad, who is thinking of moving to Palestine, to see that there is a crack down on corruption. It has no place in our society and it must be rooted out. Throw the perpetrators in jail, for they are no worse than the occupation. Next year in Jerusalem! :)

2 ) EE / UK
02/01/2012 15:36
I wonder if they are going to call Suha Arafat - good place to start for anti-corruption comission? Do they even know her current phone number? I think Abbas can help with the number.

3 ) southparkbear / usa
02/01/2012 17:14
it cannot be. corrupted pals? no way jose

4 ) Hussein / Palestine
02/01/2012 17:39
Any comment regarding the money stolen by Mrs. Arafat?

5 ) southparkbear / usa
02/01/2012 22:51
Hussein, no money was stolen by Suha. She works hard to earn every dime by keeping her mouth shut. Besides, Zahwa needs a summer home in virtually every famous resort town

6 ) M.A / Palestine
03/01/2012 11:14
a request from anybody who want to accuse any person, make sure that you have an evidents of what you are saying, and dont repeat what you hear in a caffee or bar or from your mother

7 ) Nadim / Palestine
03/01/2012 11:25
I agree Southparkbear. It's almost as rare as an honest Israeli politician, no? Calling for brokered peace and negotiation while inciting against Arabs on Israeli tv, claiming that settlement expansion will never stop until all of Eretz Israel is unified and virtually ignoring any sign of peaceful negotiation from the Palestinians or Arab League. I guess it could be worse. We could have had a president who was accused of rape and thrown in jail or a foreign minister who beats children.

8 ) EE / UK
03/01/2012 15:54
6 - request denied.

9 ) EE / UK
03/01/2012 16:17
Nadim - see, this is the difference between democracy and palestinian version of corrupt dictatorship: president convicted in rape is in jail, while Suha Arafat is in Paris and Monte Carlo enjoying life on money sent to palestinians as foreign aid. Think about it please.

10 ) Mel / USA
03/01/2012 17:25
WOW! That's going to be a big,long task? Don't forget Dubai,Qatar,Tel Aviv,Geneva,Moscow,St.Kitts,New York,London& gay Paris? In fact,start with the Arab money stolen by Zionists from the Royal(British)Bank of Palestine during the last year of the mandate,when European Zionists,looted all the Palestinian Arab bank accounts & transferred it to the Jewish National Fund(JNF). Calculate the interest accrued since 1947 & it's hundreds of millions(it's all recorded in London archives)owed2 Palestine.

11 ) southparkbear / usa
03/01/2012 17:46
hehehe Nadim, do not take it from me. just look around development is anti corruption. now granted your society has developed way past Sweden while israel is still in the stone age
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