Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a ceremony marking the 14th anniversary of the death of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, November 11, 2018.
(photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority has provided the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) with the names of more than 100 Palestinian fugitives who are wanted by the PA for their role in financial corruption, President Mahmoud Abbas revealed on Saturday.
Speaking at a conference held in Ramallah on the role of the Palestinian private sector, Abbas said that he was confident that the fugitives will return the money they stole to the Palestinian people, and that Interpol has already issued “red notices” to six fugitives. An Interpol “red notice” is a request to locate and provisionally arrest someone pending extradition.
“This means there are six thieves who will not be able to escape justice,” Abbas said. “We have a court that specializes in corruption cases, and it should have no mercy on anyone. We’re talking about more than 100 people who ran away. One stole $5 million, a second stole $10 million, and a third stole $20 million. They will all be brought [back] and you will see them here in the homeland.”
The PA leadership, Abbas added, has decided to wage a “rigorous war” on corruption. He said that he had told Rafik Natshe, head of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, that no one should be excluded from the war on corruption.
“No one should be immune, from the top of the pyramid, including myself, to the bottom,” Abbas said. “Any complaint against anyone should be dealt with to the end and should lead either to a conviction or an acquittal. We need to fight this lesion, and thank God we have been successful.”
Abbas pointed out that the PA joined Interpol last year “despite US objections.” The US, he charged, “does not want us to fight corruption. The US does not want us to go after those who are corrupt. Many of the suspects took money and ran away. How are we supposed to bring them back? The only way to do so is through Interpol. Fortunately for us, we have become members of Interpol, and now we can bring anyone from any place in the world to court and prison.”
Abbas revealed that a Palestinian suspect was served with an Interpol red notice a few days ago. However, he did not mention the name of the suspect.
Palestinian sources said Abbas was apparently referring to Rashid Abu Shabak, a former commander of the PA’s Preventive Security Force in the Gaza Strip, who has been living in Egypt for the past decade. Abu Shabak is closely associated with deposed Fatah official Mohammed Dahlan, an arch rival of Abbas who is also wanted by the PA for his role in financial corruption. Dahlan has been living in the United Arab Emirates since 2011.
In 2013, a PA court in Ramallah sentenced Abu Shabak in absentia to 15 years in prison and a $930,000 fine after finding him guilty of financial corruption. Last week, a legal committee belonging to the Arab ministers of interior issued an arrest warrant against Abu Shabak, who is also a senior member of Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction. The arrest warrant was issued at the request of the PA.
A statement issued by Fatah members in the Gaza Strip condemned the PA’s effort to arrest Abu Shabak. It accused Abbas and the PA leadership of exploiting Interpol and other international agencies to settle accounts with their political rivals.