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Sunday, 18 August, 2002, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Ex-aide accuses Arafat of major scam
Arafat addressing schoolchildren at his Ramallah HQ
Western donors want Arafat to carry out reforms

The former treasurer of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Jaweed al-Ghussein, has accused Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat of embezzling millions of dollars.

Mr Ghussein made the allegations in London. He had been held under Palestinian house arrest, but was allowed under international pressure to travel to Jerusalem for medical treatment last month.


I discovered how he [Arafat] took money given to the Palestinian people by donor countries and put it in his own account

Jaweed al-Ghussein

The Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Michael Melchior, acknowledged on Sunday that he had helped Mr Ghussein to escape to London.

Mr Ghussein is a man with stories which Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority would prefer were never told.

As PLO treasurer he had an intimate knowledge of the Palestinians' tangled finances and he is now speaking out.

In interviews with Israeli newspapers he has accused Mr Arafat of transferring millions of dollars of international donations to his own personal bank account.

Denial

The Palestinian Authority has denied the allegations and accused Mr Ghussein himself of corruption, in particular of embezzling $6.5m of funds before he resigned as PLO treasurer in 1996.

Although he has never been charged, he was put under house arrest in the Gaza Strip early last year.

Last month the Palestinian Authority agreed to let him receive medical treatment in Jerusalem.

Mr Ghussein's allegations in London will embarrass the Palestinian Authority at a time when it is under strong international and domestic pressure to clean up its finances. That is very likely exactly why Israeli officials helped him leave.


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