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(photo credit: AP)
A number of Arab countries have agreed to hand over to the Palestinian Authority top Palestinian officials suspected of involvement in financial corruption, PA officials said Sunday. They added that some of the suspects had already arrived in the Gaza Strip from Egypt.
"We're chasing the corrupt officials here and abroad," said PA Attorney-General Ahmed al-Mughni. "There will be no immunity for anyone who was involved in stealing public funds."
This is the first time that Arab countries have agreed to extradite Palestinians to the Palestinian Authority, the officials told The Jerusalem Post
. They said the countries involved included Egypt, Jordan and Qatar.
The PA hoped that other Arab countries would follow suit, the officials said, noting that some governments have refused to cooperate.
Former PA officials linked to corruption were also believed to have fled to several European countries.
The PA has in recent months stepped up efforts to track down some of the money that went missing during Yasser Arafat's rule. Palestinian security officials have raided a number of banks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to check the accounts of former officials suspected of embezzlement. The raids have led many Palestinians to withdraw their savings from the banks for fear the PA would lay its hands on the money.
During one of the raids last week, security officials were surprised to discover nearly a million dollars in the account of the head of a ministry department. It later turned out that the man's monthly salary was less than $600.
In another case, $700,000 was found in the bank account of a low-level security officer who had served as a personal bodyguard for a senior PA official.
"No one is above the law," Mughni said, pointing out that his office was already looking into 52 cases of financial corruption against former officials. "When we finish looking into these cases, we will launch investigations into new ones," he said.
The Palestinian attorney-general visited Egypt two weeks ago to seek the Egyptian government's help in tracking down some of the suspects. At least four of Arafat's former aides moved to Cairo after his death and, according to PA officials, are wanted for their role in the embezzlement of millions of dollars.
The two sides agreed that Egyptian Attorney-General Maher Abdel Wahed would visit the Gaza Strip next month for talks designed to enhance cooperation in combating financial corruption. The Egyptians also agreed to dispatch three senior officials from the attorney-general's office to the Strip to train the Palestinians in interrogation and fighting corruption.