Robbing the Palestinian people:
The secret finances of Yasser Arafat

London - published on 17 November 2004
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Vast sums of money intended for the benefit of the Palestinian people have been diverted by Yasser Arafat over the course of decades into secret bank accounts. These sums facilitated the corruption of the Palestinian leadership, and were a source of Arafat’s power. According to Forbes magazine, Mr Arafat’s personal fortune (at a time when poverty among the Palestinian people is rife) made him one of the richest leaders in the world.

This Briefing provides the key facts on how Mr Arafat has robbed the Palestinian people of billions of dollars. The information is based on a report published on 12 November 2004 in the Jerusalem Post by highly-respected Israeli Arab journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, in which he summarises published information from the International Monetary Fund and other sources about Mr Arafat’s financial corruption. Abu Toameh also provides some reactions from within Palestinian society.

Facts from The International Monetary Fund and the US-based Centre for Democracy

  • In 2003 the International Monetary Fund reported that $900 million in funds directed towards the Arafat-controlled Palestinian Authority since 1994 never reached the Palestinian treasury, but instead, over the course of years, had gone into accounts controlled by Arafat.

  • The IMF also found in 2003 that $34 million out of the $74 million budget for Arafat’s own office was missing after having been transferred to pay unidentified organisations and individuals.

  • In July 2004 the New York-based Centre for Democracy reported that Arafat personally controlled 60% of the Palestinian security apparatus budget, “giving him $360 million to spend each year”.

  • The Centre stated that between July 2002 and September 2003 Arafat transferred $11.4 million to bank accounts controlled by his wife Suha Arafat, in Paris. At the time of Arafat’s death, she was reportedly receiving a monthly stipend of $100,000 from the Palestinian treasury.

  • The Centre estimates that as at August 2002 Arafat’s personal fortune amounted to $1.3 billion. US and Israeli estimates are far higher.

  • Forbes Magazine, estimating Arafat’s personal fortune at a more conservative $200 million, ranked him as sixth in its 2003 rankings of the world’s wealthiest “kings, queens and despots”.

Former PLO Finance Minister Jawid al-Ghussein on Arafat’s corruption:

Here (as reported by the Jerusalem Post) is a comment by Jawid al-Ghussein, a former PLO finance minister who lives in London, and who, for a period of 12 years, deposited between $7.5m and $8m each month into Arafat’s personal account:

“The billions which Arafat has stolen over the years from the Palestinian people facilitated the corruption of the Palestinian leadership, and are a source of his power over them….. The money is in personal accounts under his complete control. Only one person knew where the money went, and that was Arafat…”

Senior Palestinian legislator: “give the money back to the Palestinians….”

Here are the reported comments of Hassan Khraisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council:

“We are calling on the French authorities [Suha Arafat resides in France] to seize the money and give it back to the Palestinian people. The problem is not only Suha but scores of Palestinian officials who have secret bank accounts around the world….”

Palestinian legislator: “I would like to see these thieves brought to trial….”

A Palestinian legislator is quoted as saying: “I don’t think we will ever be able to lay our hands on all the money, but even if we find a few million dollars that would be an achievement. I would like to see some of these thieves brought to trial and executed in a public square….

Palestinian editor in Ramallah: “Arafat is taking secrets to the grave….”

And here are the reported comments of a Palestinian editor in Ramallah:

“Arafat is taking with him to the grave the secret of the bank accounts, much to the dismay of most Palestinians. This is a tragedy. The Palestinian people are among the poorest in the world, while their leaders are among the richest…”


Our Conclusion: Mr Arafat established a vast network of corruption, through which he exerted power over his people, horded massive personal wealth for himself and his wife, and sustained a group of cronies around him.

These activities betrayed the interests and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Courageous Palestinian politicians and commentators are speaking out. But many Western journalists and commentators whitewash these facts.