Mohammed El-Halabi appears in court, August 4.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Australian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said an internal investigation found no evidence that the NGO World Vision misused government funds to support Hamas, according to the Agence France-Presse.
In August, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and a number of Israeli officials accused Muhammad al-Halabi, a World Vision employee in the Gaza Strip, of siphoning off tens of millions of dollars to Hamas’s military wing to buy weapons and build attack tunnels.
Australia has given $3 million to World Vision projects in Gaza over the past three years, but suspended its aid payments to the NGO in August upon announcing its internal investigation, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The Australian Foreign Ministry said its contributions to World Vision will remain frozen pending the result of a court case against Halabi in Israel, according to AFP.
Shin Bet: UN worker used his position to aid Hamas military projects
Halabi’s lawyers complained that they have been barred from viewing much of the evidence against their client.
Halabi pleaded not guilty in early February to all charges against him, and has accused Israeli authorities of torturing him while in custody.
World Vision, which opened its own internal investigation into the accusations against Halabi, said it “was relieved” to hear the results of the Australian Foreign Ministry investigation, according to AFP.
“For [the Australian Foreign Ministry] to say there was no diversion of funds is very welcome,” World Vision chief advocate Tim Costello told AFP.
He noted that World Vision’s probe will not be completed until the summer.