Palestinian government plans new law to cut off Hamas funds

Officials close to Abbas say Hamas brings in millions of dollars from abroad each month through merchants loyal to the group.

Hamas Rally Sun 298 88 (photo credit: AP)
Hamas Rally Sun 298 88
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian government is preparing money laundering legislation designed to cut off overseas funding for Hamas, government officials said Wednesday. The Western-backed government of President Mahmoud Abbas will soon have a law in place to monitor all money entering the Palestinian territories, said Riad Malki, the Palestinian information minister. Malki did not mention Hamas by name, saying only that the new legislation was meant to bring Palestinian money laundering laws up to international standards. But government officials, speaking off the record, said the law was meant to prevent funds from reaching the Islamic group through local businesses and charities. Hamas denounced the planned legislation as an attempt to "suffocate" the organization. Officials close to Abbas told The Associated Press that Hamas brings in millions of dollars from abroad each month through merchants loyal to the group and charities that it uses as fronts. One senior West Bank security official said Hamas allows import-export businessmen to keep 20 percent of any sum they bring in for the militant group, a deal the official termed "irresistible." The officials provided no documentation. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to divulge information to the media. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denounced the government's planned legislation as a "law meant to suffocate the movement." The legislation is illegal because only parliament can enact laws, Abu Zuhri said. The Palestinian parliament, dominated by Hamas, has been bypassed by Abbas, who has been ruling by executive decree since he formed his West Bank government two months ago.