Palestinian straw firms said aiming to 'steal' Gaza funds

Fatah official to 'Post': Fictitous companies set up by relatives and sons of at least five senior officials.

Gaza rubble 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Gaza rubble 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinian Authority on Monday promised to look into claims that a number of PA and Fatah officials have established straw companies with the hope of attracting financial aid being allocated to the Gaza Strip. A veteran Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post that some of the straw companies were recently registered in a number of Arab countries as construction firms. He claimed that some of the fictitious companies were set up by relatives and sons of at least five senior officials. This Fatah official, who has been very critical of the PA leadership's stance during the war in the Gaza Strip, said he has alerted the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas to the fact that some straw companies were trying to "steal" international aid assigned to the victims of Operation Cast Lead. "I provided them with names of the corrupt officials and details about the false companies," he said. "I hope they will succeed in preventing the theft of the money." However, a source in Abbas's Mukata headquarters in Ramallah said the PA was unaware of the allegations, but that the PA leadership would, in any case, look into them. "If these allegations are true, we will take the necessary measures to hold those responsible accountable," the source said. "But in the meantime we believe that these are rumors that are being spread by Hamas and its men." The Palestinians are hoping to raise more than $2.5 billion for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the war. Some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have promised to give the Palestinians hundreds of millions of dollars to help rebuild the Strip. The money is also intended to compensate those who lost family members and homes. Since the cease-fire went into effect last week, the PA and Hamas have been engaged in a war of words over which party would be responsible for the reconstruction work. The Hamas government announced that it has allocated more than $30m. to help rebuild destroyed houses and institutions. It also pledged 4,000 Euros to each family whose house was destroyed. Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip and Syria have warned that international community against channeling funds to the Gaza Strip through the PA leadership in Ramallah. "Don't give the money to Ramallah," said Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of the Hamas political bureau. He urged the donor countries to coordinate the delivery of the financial aid with the "legitimate" government of Hamas to ensure that the money is not stolen by "corrupt Palestinian Authority leaders." The PA, on the other hand, has called on the international community not to deal with the Hamas government, demanding that the aid be coordinated only with the government of PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and Abbas's office. The PA is worried that if the money goes directly to the Gaza Strip, it would be exploited by Hamas to enhance its standing and tighten its grip on the district. In a bid to win the donors' trust, each party has been accusing the other of stealing aid convoys dispatched to the Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed that senior PA officials in the West Bank had seized several trucks loaded with food and medicine that were sent by a number of Arab countries to Gaza. According to Hamas, the food and medicine were sold by the PA officials to Gaza wholesale merchants. For their part, PA officials in Ramallah have repeatedly accused Hamas militiamen of confiscating aid convoys sent into the Strip. Warning the international community against the alleged Hamas actions, the PA officials said that Hamas was distributing the aid only to its supporters. A top official in the PA government in Ramallah pointed out that the PA was continuing to allocate $120m. per month from its budget to the Gaza Strip. He said that on the instructions of Abbas, the government has also started paying money to the families of Palestinians who were killed during Operation Cast Lead. "We have already transferred $3.5m. to an organization in the Gaza Strip that is supervising the payments," he added. "Another $1.9m. were transferred to the Gaza Strip to help relief and health institutions there."