The Middle East Digest has consistently followed the subject of PLO/PA financial corruption under Yasser Arafat, and provides this update excerpted from the Electronic Telegraph of London on Sunday, 5 December 1999.By Tom Gross
THE Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has salted away billions of pounds for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in secret foreign bank accounts and investments, including property in London. The disclosure about the hidden wealth of his PLO comes amid deepening economic hardship in his Gaza and West Bank fiefdoms. It will also hamper his efforts to woo a huge influx of European aid for his fledgling Palestinian regime.
New details of the vast PLO fortune he controls have come to light following a series of computer break-ins at the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Tunis. The hackers discovered that the PLO maintains about £5 billion in numbered bank accounts in Zurich, Geneva and New York. It also holds accounts with smaller sums in north Africa, Europe and Asia. They are not registered in the PLO’s name, but in the names of private individuals.
The records also showed that the PLO owns shares on the Frankfurt, Paris and Tokyo stock exchanges, including stock in the German car giant Mercedes Benz, and property in prestigious areas of European capitals, including Mayfair in London. The organisation, which once specialised in aircraft hijackings, also has shares in several airlines, including the national carriers of the Maldives and Guinea Bissau. The computer security breach is believed on the West Bank to have been carried out by PLO officials disgruntled with Mr Arafat’s leadership. "They wished to dispel the smokescreen created around the PLO’s finances," a Palestinian official told The Telegraph.