Arafat's associates battle for his multi-million fortune

The Palestinian leader saved over $700 million on his countless bank accounts

Politicians from Yasser Arafat's milieu and his closest relatives have started the battle for the financial empire of the longstanding Palestinian leader.

According to Javid Hassan, who used to be in charge of financial matters of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the financial empire of the Palestinian leader was evaluated somewhere between three of five billion dollars as of 1996. Present-day figures are not known, but many Palestinian politicians are concerned about the fact that Arafat's close associates or family members will take possession of the money after his death. The Palestinian money, not to mention the Mideast policy, is a rather complicated matter.

The Palestinian financial empire was founded in the 1960s, when Israel's Mideast neighbors willingly funded the Palestinian resistance movement. The treasury of the Palestine Liberation Organization reportedly gained $200 million every year. Yasser Arafat received $10 million checks monthly. The funds were meant to pay wages to PLO members and compensations to the families of the killed soldiers. As soon as the Palestinian leader supported Iraq's incursion in Kuwait, the financial source was exhausted.

Cash resumed flowing in Arafat's hands, when the Palestinian administration was established on the West Bank of the Jordan River and in Gaza Strip. The international community assigned over $6.5 billion of economic help to it from 1994 to 2003. It is noteworthy that no one was personally in charge of the spending.

According to experts' estimates, Palestinians invested the funds in third-rate airlines in the Maldives, a shipping company in Greece, banana plantations, diamond mines in Africa and in the real estate in the Middle East. Some of those investments, however, did not bring any profit: several companies went bankrupt, and people from Arafat's team appropriated a part of the funds.

Yasser Arafat was leading rather a humble lifestyle. Mohammed Rashid, Arafat's financial adviser said that the Palestinian leader had no house, no orchids and not even a personal bank account. Nevertheless, Arafat ranked sixth on Forbes' list of richest kings, queens and tyrants in 2003. The magazine evaluated Yasser Arafat's fortune at $300 million. Israeli special services said that the Palestinian leader saved over $700 million on his countless bank accounts.

Aleksey Bausin

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Author`s name Olga Savka