Don’t Underrate Arafat’s Bank Account

By Rachel Ehrenfeld @ The Wall St. Journal,
Thursday, December 2nd, 1993 @ 11:48PM

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Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat is currently traveling in Europe with an outstretched palm. Mr. Arafat is warning that the peace process in the Middle East will collapse without financial aid from the West.

The PLO is asking for $9 billion to $12 billion in aid over the next five years from the U.S. and others. Two billion dollars were pledged at a special fundraiser in Washington, D.C., in September. Moreover, Mr. Arafat recently requested a World Bank loan to pay for the “equipment” of the 8,000 trained terrorists coming to the West Bank and Gaza from countries such as Libya, Syria, and Jordan. These will ostensibly be part of the “police force” to which Mr. Arafat is entitled under the peace agreement. But the PLO is not as needy as it claims.

A recent briefing paper on the subject of criminal organizations threatening the national security of the United Kingdom, released by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) reports: “The conglomeration of Palestinian movements under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization, is the richest of all terrorist groups. It is estimated that they have worldwide assets approaching 8-10 billion U.S. dollars and an annual income of about 1 1/2 to 2 billion U.S. dollars.” The report warns that the PLO is still “financed and assisted by maverick states . . . such as Libya and Iraq.” The NCIS further concludes that PLO criminal activities and support from radical states “will continue,” and that the “fraud centers of London and Frankfurt . . . are used to handle the resources” of the PLO. The riches of the PLO have not kept Mr. Arafat from demanding, and Western leaders promising, billions of dollars more as a reward for PLO concessions in making peace with Israel, claiming that these billions are needed to build up the economy of the gestating Palestinian state. While amassing their own wealth, the PLO leadership in the past ignored the poverty and lack of economic development in Gaza and the West Bank. Instead, they enriched themselves. Mr. Arafat, like many other billionaires, is said to own 12 homes and three airplanes.

Just over a year ago when the rogue Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was padlocked, the media was filled with scandalous details about terrorist accounts in the bank. Many other European and American banks have been identified by law enforcement agencies as holding accounts for the PLO and other terrorist organizations. We learned that the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) and the PLO had accounts in BCCI. It was also revealed that BCCI handled joint venture business agreements for the PLO. Samed, the economic development arm of the PLO, with BCCI backing, invested in agribusiness, shoe factories, food processing plants, and oil refineries in cooperation with various governments including Poland, Hungary, Romania, the People’s Republic of the Congo, Mali, Syria, the Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Zaire, Uganda, the former German Democratic Republic and Jordan. BCCI also backed PLO purchases of airlines and duty-free stores in many countries, sidelines which fitted conveniently with its terrorist activities, enabling it and its affiliates to move arms, drugs, and terrorists inconspicuously. This “investment strategy” was developed by the experienced Lebanese con man George Hallak, infamous among international law enforcement agencies for obtaining illegal airline tickets and forged travel documents. Mr. Hallak, as is well documented in a 1991 report by the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, helped the PLO

BCCI also backed PLO purchases of airlines and duty-free stores in many countries, sidelines which fitted conveniently with its terrorist activities, enabling it and its affiliates to move arms, drugs, and terrorists inconspicuously. This “investment strategy” was developed by the experienced Lebanese con man George Hallak, infamous among international law enforcement agencies for obtaining illegal airline tickets and forged travel documents. Mr. Hallak, as is well documented in a 1991 report by the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, helped the PLO form the Caledonian Airlines in Beirut and Maldive Airways. Indeed, the PLO’s interest in airlines and duty-free shops seems to be related to its interest in drug trafficking, which has always been a major cash source for the PLO.

The PLO has a partnership in Nigeria Airways and owns the duty-free shop at Nuratala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos. It also controls Air Zimbabwe and Kenya Airways as well as the duty-free shop at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi. In Nicaragua, 25% of the national airline Aeronica is PLO-owned — purchased from the Sandinista government — as is a substantial share of the duty-free store at Aeropuerto Internacionale Las Nercedas. With the BCCI revelations, we learned that the PLO and the Abu Nidal Organization ran a commercial network for “gray arms” transactions (SAS Foreign Trade and Investment) operating from the Intraco building in Warsaw, Poland. In East Germany they operated Zibado, exporting arms and other commodities. The widely reported political bankruptcy of the PLO following the Gulf War was as mistaken as the notion that the organization needs cash. The PLO leadership which strongly supported Saddam Hussein before, during and after the Gulf War, met in Khartoum in January 1993 with Hamas and Hezbollah representatives and issued a joint statement of cooperation and collaboration. The statement stressed the need to increase contributions and fundraising to support an escalation of the intifada. Tunisian Interior Minister Abdala Kallel branded this latest international collusion of terrorists as a new form of “cross-border organized crime.” Before the ink was dry on the Khartoum agreement, Mohammed Salah, a naturalized Arab-American, was arrested in Israel and identified as a military commander of Hamas. He carried a suitcase filled with $600,000 in small denominations destined for “Palestinian Freedom Fighters.”

Following the Arafat-Rabin handshake in Washington, Hamas issued another statement in support of the PLO. Yet Hamas is constantly portrayed by the Western media as an implacable foe of Mr. Arafat’s initiative is yet another manifestation of the good cop/bad cop routine terrorist groups are famous for. Most Western taxpayers are probably willing to pay something for Middle East peace, but the peace process need not be as costly as the PLO would have us believe. Western leaders owe their taxpayers the truth as well as evidence of some harder bargaining with the PLO. Liquidate the assets the PLO ostensibly amassed for war and terror; account for the billions in assets the PLO has already received from the Gulf states and others for decades, and turn them to peaceful use. Let Western leaders demand that and the rest of us may be willing to talk about aid.

— Ms. Ehrenfeld is the author of “Narcoterrorism” and “Evil Money: Encounters Along the Money Trail.”


Categories: ACD in the Media, Anti-Corruption, Arafat's corruption, PA, PA corruption, Palestinians
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