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Jewish World Review July 9, 2001/ 18 Tamuz 5761

Richard Z. Chesnoff

Richard Z. Chesnoff
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Consumer Reports

Tales of the Gaza goniff: How Arafat Rips Off His Own People --
PALESTINIAN leader Yasser Arafat constantly moans that Israel's war against terrorism is "starving our children." Truth is, it's his own hypercorrupt administration that's bleeding the Palestinian economy dry.

According to Rachel Ehrenfeld, director of the New York- based Center for the Study of Corruption and the Rule of Law, the Gaza Grabber has been systematically skimming the $75 million a year in U.S. funds he has received since 1994 not to mention major portions of the aid from other countries and Palestinian tax revenues.

Tales of Arafat's wealth are hardly new. A 1994 British intelligence study estimated that he controlled assets of up to $10 billion and that as a result, the Palestine Liberation Organization enjoyed an annual income of as much as $2 billion.

Rep. Benjamin Gilman (D-N.Y.) asked the General Accounting Office to prepare its own detailed assessment of the PLO's assets. The report was completed in June 1995, but the Clinton administration eager not to rock the peace-process boat barred it from public view.

That hasn't prevented details of the PLO's ill-gotten fortune from coming to light. Last year, hackers believed to be disgruntled Palestinians broke into Arafat's computer system and found details of more than $5 billion in secret bank accounts in Switzerland, the U.S., Asia and North Africa. The accounts are not registered in the PLO's name, but in the names of private individuals who have Arafat's trust.

The hackers also discovered that Palestinians own shares on the Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo stock exchanges, including stock in the German car giant Mercedes-Benz and real estate in some of Europe's most prestigious neighborhoods.

And how's this for irony? Arafat, the one-time mastermind of aircraft hijackings, is part owner of several airlines, including the national carriers of the Maldives and Guinea-Bissau.

On the ground in Gaza, where more than 50% of the population is unemployed and barely any public housing has been built, Arafat & Co. erect one luxury villa after another, drive fancy cars and grow fatter on public funds.

Some of Arafat's closest pals control entire industries. Even Arafat's wife, Suha, is reportedly co-owner of a monopoly in the garment trade.

Arafat's gang isn't satisfied just with legal loot. According to intelligence sources, Arafat has launched an international counterfeiting scheme. The man behind the bogus bills: Fuad el-Shukabi, one of his senior financial advisers. El-Shukabi, say the sources, recently purchased two new printing presses. A trial run of some $150,000 in Kuwaiti dinars was successfully distributed in Beirut and the Persian Gulf States.

El-Shukabi then had the presses flown into Gaza aboard Arafat's own plane. The current plan: to run off large quantities of Jordanian 20 dinar notes and U.S. $50 bills, using paper purchased in South America.

The pro-Arafat propaganda machine recently launched a phony campaign to have Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon indicted for war crimes allegedly committed in Beirut 19 years ago. If anybody should be indicted, it's Arafat for international fraud and corruption. Where's Interpol when you need it most?

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book, recently updated, is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.

Richard Z. Chesnoff Archives

© 2001, N. Y. Daily News