Billions of euros in European aid to the PLO and Hamas between 2008 and 2012 may have been misspent, squandered or lost to corruption - according to an unpublished report by the European Court of Auditors - a Luxembourg-based watchdog - disclosed in an article appearing in The Sunday Times on 14 October.
Brussels reportedly transferred more than US$2.64 billion to the West Bank and Gaza in that four year period - but had little control over how it was spent - the auditors said in the damning report seen by The Sunday Times.
EU investigators who visited sites in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank noted "significant shortcomings" in the management of funds sent to Gaza and the West Bank.
These disturbing revelations followed closely on the heels of a report in Ma'an News on 10 October claiming that the Palestinian Authority's (PA) anti-corruption commission - established in 2010 - was working to retrieve PLO-owned land registered to individual PLO leaders - according to commission chief Rafiq al-Natsheh.
The commission had recovered around 400 dunums of PLO-owned land in 2012 -
al-Natsheh told Ma'an.
Natsheh's remarks were made after comments by him in in the Jordanian newspaper al-Dustour the previous week that PA officials were moving deposits from Jordanian banks to foreign accounts.
"If suspects accused of stealing public money (are moving funds abroad), that falls within our jurisdiction, We will ask these countries to help us restore the stolen public money, Transferring money anywhere (abroad) will not prevent us from calling suspects to account and restoring that money,"
In rare comments on the location of assets belonging to the PLO - al-Natsheh admitted that bank deposits and real estate collected by the PLO dating back to its inception in 1964 had been entrusted to "trustworthy individuals" and had yet to be recovered.
According to al-Natsheh, some of the money and property - which was supposed to be have been deposited into public accounts when the PA government was established in 1994 - still remains in private hands.
Any possibility of an embedded culture of corruption on a grand scale within the PLO and Hamas - as alleged in these news reports - could well be influencing any reconciliation between the PLO and Hamas who themselves have been locked in an internecine power struggle since 2007 creating two separate fiefdoms where corruption easily flourishes - ensuring that the continuing plunder of large injections of international donor funds will always trump any efforts at reconciliation.
Systemic corruption in the PLO could also be a powerful driver in influencing the continuation of the current status quo with Israel - enabling unjust enrichment of PLO officials to continue at the expense of the West Bank Arabs for whose welfare and advancement such funds received from international donors were to be ostensibly applied.
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