By Baruch Yedid/TPS • 11 June, 2019
Official Palestinian Authority (PA) documents exposing corruption among the PA’s leadership have leaked to social media in recent days, enraging the street in the PA, while those implicated claim it’s an American plot to besmirch them ahead of the “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in Bahrain.
Mahmoud Al-Habash, Supreme Shari’ah Judge in the PA and PA head Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs who is in the center of one the corruption cases, tweeted over the weekend that the US has employed “a strategy of defaming and assassination against all those who oppose the [US’] Deal of the Century, as part of its insane attempts to force its cursed ideas.”
Rabhi Halum, who has served as a PA ambassador in recent years, has exposed the involvement of several PA embassies across the globe in corruption cases. Halum, who has seen an 80-page document on the issue, has published on social media a long list of allegations involving the PA’s diplomatic corps, which he has dubbed a “den of corruption.”
Faiz Swatey, a journalist and rights activist, has been publishing reports on PA corruption on social media, for which he was arrested over the weekend. He said his life was threatened.
A group of lawyers and activists are demanding that the PA release Swatey.
One of the cases he exposed involves Hussain Sheikh, the PA’s Minister for Civil Affairs, who has sold PA businessmen travel permits to Israel at the total sum of $50,000. Sheikh dismissed the allegations as nonsense and the incriminating documents as a fabrication and pledged to find the forgers.
A senior source in Ramallah told TPS that Habash is behind the various recent exposures of other PA officials as a way of turning the limelight away from himself to other officials.
PA businessmen confirmed that Sheikh has several people working to collect the bribes for the work permits.
TPS has recently reported that Al-Habash is in the center of a corruption case, which is already sending shock waves through the PA. Habash is suspected of having established shell companies through which funds were laundered and then transferred from Dubai to Malaysia, where Hamas has broadened its activities in recent months.
Similarly, TPS reported that Yasser Abbas, son of PA head Abbas, is also involved in money laundering, illicit finances and corrupt deals.
Now Halum is claiming that the PA’s embassies have become a center for corruption and nepotism. For instance, Abed al Karim Hatib was appointed counsel in Turkey only because of his ties with Habash, and despite the fact that he has no diplomatic experience, Halum charged.
Halum also alleged that another Fatah official received public funds at the sum of a half a million dollars from a Jordanian bank, signed over by Abbas.
He further expressed fear that the embassies were becoming targets for espionage by elements that oppose the PA.
W.S., who holds a position within the PA, agreed that nepotism in the PA’s Foreign Service has worsened.
For instance, Kapach Uda serves as a PA envoy is Spain with a salary of $8,000 a year, his wife Hala receives similar pay for serving with the mission in Sweden, his brother Muhamad serves on the Latin America desk for $6,000 a month, and Kapach’s daughter Nur serves as a diplomat in Europe for 5,000 a month. Amar Ajmi, Nur’s husband serves as a minister aid for $7,000 a month.
Another official within the PA reported that Habash’s daughter was recently appointed to the consul in Turkey thanks to her father’s ties.
Other instances of corruption and favoritism have also been exposed.
Swatey explained that he decided to expose the materials he has because of the local press’ fear to do so and because Nasser Lahem, a senior reporter, has refrained from doing so because of his ties with Abbas.
Swatey has based his allegations on PA documents, reports from various research institutes and dozens of meetings with officials.
He underscored the disappearance of millions of dollars from the PA coffers, the arrest of officials critical of the regime, and payments and kickbacks through exaggerated wages and jobs.
He also exposed corruption in government companies, misuse of funds donated by countries for infrastructure and education, the sale of academic degrees, and bribes paid through plane tickets, the purchase of houses and vehicles.
The general picture he depicted was one of a thoroughly corrupt and dysfunctional government, in which even the anti-corruption elements were corrupt.
The anti-corruption authority confiscated NIS 6.5 million in funds tied with corruption in 2017, but its expenditures passed NIS 10 million. The pension paid out to the authority’s former head, Rafiq al-Natsheh, stands at $12,000 a month, against the PA’s own regulations.
Finally, the PA holds a fleet of 4,000 cars, way over its ability to maintain. Many of the cars were given to officials as a benefit.