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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘corruption’

Olmert Acquitted Of Major Charges

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

JERUSALEM – A panel of three Jerusalem regional court judges acquitted former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday of all corruption charges in the Rishon Tours and Moshe Talansky matters. The judges, though, found him guilty of breach of trust in the Investment Center affair, which took place during Olmert’s tenure as minister of industry, trade and labor nearly a decade ago.

The state prosecutor had charged Olmert with fraud, breach of trust, falsifying corporate records, double billing, tax evasion and accepting bribes in the Rishon Tours and Talansky affairs nearly four years ago. During the course of the long legal battle, Talansky, a Long Island financier who co-founded the New Jerusalem Fund with Olmert, alleged in court that Olmert requested cash for various purposes. If the court had rendered a guilty verdict on the fraud charges, each charge would have carried a minimum jail term of three years. The breach of trust guilty verdict does not carry an automatic jail sentence, as the penalty is determined by judicial discretion.

Despite Olmert’s acquittals, the judges declared that the former prime minister’s former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, was guilty of two counts of fraud and breach of trust in the Rishon Tours case. Her conviction, which will almost certainly be challenged by her legal team, carries a minimum prison term of three years.

A cadre of legal experts and media commentators expressed surprise at the verdict on Olmert, especially in the Rishon Tours double-billing case whereby several witnesses maintained that both Olmert and Zaken were aware of double billing major Jewish organizations – and even orchestrated the action.

After the verdicts were handed down, the legal experts publicly questioned how Zaken, who was in constant daily contact with Olmert throughout most of his political career and updated him on all matters, could be found guilty while Olmert could emerge virtually unscathed.

Other legal pundits are arguing that Zaken is taking the fall for Olmert, despite the fact that she was allegedly offered immunity from prosecution had she turned state’s witness against her former boss. MK Dalia Itzik, a former political ally of Olmert’s during his tenure as prime minister and head of the Kadima Party, blasted State Attorney Moshe Lador. “This is one of the most severe legal earthquakes to ever hit Israel. It’s difficult to understand how supposedly rock-solid cases, which forced Olmert from office, collapsed. It’s absurd,” she said.

While expressing dismay with Zaken’s conviction, Olmert was ecstatic with his not guilty verdict on the corruption charges. “I knew I would be vindicated. There was no corruption or envelopes with money,” he told a horde of Israeli and foreign reporters at the Jerusalem courthouse. “This won’t be the last time you will be hearing from me.”

Olmert and Zaken’s legal battles, however, are far from over. Tuesday’s legal drama comes at the same time that Olmert, Zaken and former Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski are being accused by the state prosecution’s main witness, a controversial businessman with a checkered reputation, as being central players in the so-called Holyland Affair. The Holyland trial is expected to last several months, with a verdict not expected until either later this year or early next year.

PA Arrests 150

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Israel is praising the Palestinian Authority for cracking down on crime and corruption in Arab territories in Judea and Samaria, following the arrest of 150 suspects.

The crackdown began in mid-May and has included the arrest of senior security officers, some of whom were trained by the United States.

The suspects, being held in a PA prison in Jericho, were rounded up by the Presidential Guard, a force loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Many of the detainees are former members of Fatah’s Al-Aksa martyrs Brigade and the Palestinian National Security Forces, the PA’s US-trained counter-terror wing.

The PA expects to receive a shipment of 4,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles from Jordan, pending Israeli approval.

Losing Candidate Shafiq Fleeing Egypt Ahead of Corruption Charges

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Ahmed Mohamed Shafik Zaki, who came second in Egypt’s presidential runoff election last week, is reported to have boarded a flight to Abu Dhabi Early Tuesday morning. He was seen off along with his three daughters to the Cairo airport VIP section by two employees of his campaign, then took a bus to the old terminal.

According to Al Ahram, several corruption complaints have been filed with the Office of the Prosecutor against Shafiq, who served as Mubarak’s last prime minister.

A high-level judicial source told Al Ahram that a Justice Ministry investigator, will receive this week the report prepared by experts in the Illicit Profiteering and Real Estate Agency who have examined procedures for the allocation of land sold by the Cooperative for Construction and Housing for Pilots, which was headed by Ahmed Shafiq in the 1990′s.

Former MP Essam Sultan of Al-Wasat Party issued a complaint against Shafiq as the former head of the cooperative, accusing him of selling a large piece of land to Alaa and Gamal Mubarak in 1993, at an extremely low price of only 75 piasters (about 12.5 cents) per square meter (about 10.5 sq. ft.).

The office of the prosecutor general Abdel Meguid Mahmoud has also transferred a complaint to El-Seidi against former president Hosni Mubarak Ahmed Shafiq, and former agriculture minister Youssef Wally, for illegally seizing 119 feddans of land (about 125 acres).

According to the complaint, the defendants seized land that belongs to fish farms, and illegally allocated it to the Pilots’ Association for Land Development, which was headed by Shafiq.

In the months following the ousting of Mubarak, more than 30 separate lawsuits of corruption were filed against Shafiq.

Bon voyage.

The Silence Abbas and the PA Want You to Hear

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

The Middle East is becoming quieter. No, the swords are not turning into plowshares, it’s not that kind of quiet. Instead, it is the sound of truth that’s slowly being silenced. And it’s happening not only because the PA grows stronger, but also because the West grows weaker.

Thirty years ago the young Arab journalist Khaled abu Toameh quit working for PLO media outlets. They did not allow reporting on what abu Toameh saw as the news people needed to know. Instead, he was told to take the words dictated by the Arab leadership, and cut and paste them into the stories they then published, but under his byline. They weren’t his words and it wasn’t the news, so he turned to western media for outlets that allowed him to write and speak about what people needed to know.

In those thirty years the PA media has not become more open. Instead, the PA leadership has become more emboldened and the western media – either because of physical or moral exhaustion – is allowing the PA’s censorship to seep into and rot away at core freedoms, both of speech and of the press.

Under the Palestinian Authority’s Penal Code, a holdover from when Jordan illegally occupied the territories, defamation suspects can be arrested and held in detention for up to six months before they are charged with a crime. Esmat Abdul-Khalik, an al Quds University lecturer and single mother of two, was arrested in late March and held in solitary confinement and denied the possibility of any visits because someone else criticized PA President Mahmoud Abbas on her Facebook page, calling him a traitor and suggesting he resign. Abdul-Khalik is not the only Arab arrested recently for Facebook page activity, at least three others have recently been picked up for daring to criticize members of the government.

In September, the director of Radio Bethlehem 2000, George Canawati, was arrested for posting on his Facebook page criticism of the Bethlehem Health Department. Last month the PA judicial and executive authorities determined Canawati will be tried for defamation – a crime punishable by up to two years in prison – in the Magistrate Court of Bethlehem City. The trial was recently adjourned until September.

Altogether, nine journalists have been arrested in recent weeks for exposing corruption or making critical remarks about the PA leadership on Facebook, and many others have been summoned for interrogation. When Facebook postings expose government critics to censure, you can be sure that no one will risk filing bona fide media reports about the topic.

But just as frightening as Arab Palestinian bloggers and journalists being arrested for posting on their Facebook pages is the steady drumbeat of pressure that is leading to a decrease in coverage by western journalists who, presumably, are not as vulnerable to the capricious selections for punishment designed to suppress criticism of the ruling regime.

In addition to whispered discussions being heard in Ramallah about the “Facebook Police” are the directives issued to western journalists to focus their reporting on “Israel’s ‘occupation’” and refrain from prying into alleged corruption committed by PA officials, because “nothing else is newsworthy and nothing else should be reported.”

Some western journalists have been warned not to work with Arabic speaking reporters who fail to toe the “All-Occupation, All The Time” reporting. This is how the PA controls not only their own media outlets, but those western outlets. All too many simply play along rather than stand up for press and speech freedoms and possibly risk losing access. For those journalists who behave and report primarily about the occupation, the rewards are access to senior officials. Senior PA officials told Arab Israeli journalist abu Toameh, “Even the Jews at Haaretz behave themselves and for that they are rewarded with interviews of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.”

It is not only individual journalists who are being intimidated, but entire news sites critical of the PA have been blocked on the internet. A report in late April revealed that several websites which had reported on corruption within the PA were blocked, including Inlight Press, which had revealed that the PA had been monitoring the phones of Mahmoud Abbas’s opponents.

What’s more, in May, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, a vehicle that is supposed to act as a union to defend the rights of its members, actually began punishing Arab Palestinian journalists for meeting and cooperating with Israeli colleagues in a series of joint seminars that were held in Europe. The goal of those seminars was to promote freedom of expression and increase cooperation. The PJS is affiliated with the PA and is dominated by Fatah, the party of Abbas, and reports directly to the President’s office in Ramallah. Those who violate the will of the Syndicate, which is to sing from the hymnal of PA devotion and praise for Abbas, are threatened with expulsion from the Syndicate and a concomitant boycott by all PA newspapers and other Palestinian media outlets.

Khaled Abu Toameh: How Much Is Mahmoud Abbas Worth?

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has just discovered what every Palestinian child knows — that hundreds of millions of dollars had been embezzled during the era of Yasser Arafat.

The “discovery”, however, was not the result of a thorough and long investigation ordered by Palestinian leaders in Ramallah with the hope of restoring public funds.

Instead, it came after one of Arafat’s most trusted aides, Mohammed Rashid, threatened to expose corruption scandals in the Palestinian Authority.

For many years, Rashid served as Arafat’s financial advisor and was given a free hand to handle hundreds of millions of dollars that were poured on the Palestinian Authority and the PLO by US, EU, and Arab donors.

A former journalist who used to earn less than $1,000 a month by working for a PLO newspaper, Rashid is now considered one of the wealthiest Palestinians anywhere. Palestinian Authority officials have estimated his fortune at more than half a billion dollars.

Rashid left the Palestinian territories almost immediately after his boss, Arafat, died in late 2004. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has done almost nothing to bring him to trial or return at least some of the missing funds.

This week, however, the Palestinian Authority finally woke up and remembered that Rashid was suspected of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Palestinian Authority’s Anti-Corruption Commission in Ramallah announced that it has issued an arrest warrant against the former Arafat advisor and asked Interpol for help in bringing him to trial.

The announcement came a day after Rashid appeared on a Saudi-owned TV station and threatened to expose corruption scandals in the Palestinian Authority leadership.

Palestinian leaders in Ramallah, including President Mahmoud Abbas, are deeply concerned that Rashid’s revelations could seriously embarrass them and expose their role in the embezzlement of public funds.

They are also worried that Rashid’s revelations could prompt some Americans and Europeans to reconsider their decision to pour millions of dollars into the Palestinian Authority’s coffers.

Rashid, after all, was not a junior official in the Palestinian Authority. He was an insider, someone who was very close to Arafat and probably the only official who knows where hundreds of millions of dollars ended up.

The Palestinian Authority’s decision to issue an arrest warrant against him does not seem to worry Rashid, who this week demanded a probe into Abbas’s personal fortune, which he estimated at more than $100 million.

So Abbas is saying that Rashid stole hundreds of millions of dollars, while Rashid is accusing the president of embezzling “only” $100 million. This is happening at a time when international donors are continuing to channel more funds every month to the Palestinian Authority, often without holding its leaders accountable or demanding to know how the money is being spent.

What is needed is an independent commission of inquiry to restore the public funds belonging to the Palestinian people. The Palestinians have many Mohammed Rashids who turned into wealthy businessmen during the peace process with Israel — thanks to the naivety of Americans and Europeans.

Originally published by http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Khaled Abu Toameh: The Main Goal of the Palestinian Government

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

At a time when many Western governments, the World Bank and various international organizations are continuing to heap praise on the Palestinian Authority for implementing reforms, the deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Hasan Khreishah, announced that financial and administrative corruption was now more widespread than ever.

Khreishah, who is an independent parliamentarian, made it clear that the Palestinian government of Salam Fayyad, which has been hailed for combating corruption and implementing major reforms, was continuing to squander public funds.

One of the charges the deputy parliament speaker makes relates to the Palestinian government’s claim that it is facing severe financial crisis.

Khreishah says that the Palestinian government is in fact lying when it talks about a financial crisis; its main goal is to get Western and Arab donors to channel more funds to Ramallah: “Corruption in the Palestinian Authority is more widespread than in the past,” he said. “We hear about the suffering and hunger of the poor and the difficulties facing the unemployed, farmers, villagers and civil servants,” Khreishah said. “At the same time, we hear about the luxurious life of senior and influential officials and the involvement of some in money laundering.”

What Khreishah is saying is that Western donors, specifically the US and EU, are continuing to pour billions of dollars into the Palestinian Authority without holding its leaders fully accountable.

He revealed, for example, that the chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund, a company that was established by the PLO, was receiving a salary of $35,000 a month, or $420,000 a year, while the average salary of a civil servant in the Palestinian Authority ranges from $500 to $1,000 a month.

Khreishah also disclosed that senior members of the PLO and Fatah have not only awarded themselves huge salaries, but also other privileges such as luxurious vehicles.

A senior Palestinian official, he said, spends an average of five days abroad together with aides, advisors and secretaries — all at the expense of the Palestinians.

“Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, we have had 228 ministers, in addition to advisers,” Khreishah said in an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.” All receive high salaries and luxurious vehicles,” he continued. “In light of the financial expenses [of the PA leadership], the talk about a financial crisis is repugnant and baseless,” he charged. “This talk has become a sort of political statement.”

Khreishah also lashed out at the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for violations of human rights and freedom of expression. Journalists have become a target for anyone who wants to violate human rights,” Khreishah added. “Palestinians are being held hostages by the two parties.”

Despite his senior status in the Palestinian Authority, including the fact that he is an elected parliament member, the international media chose to ignore his statements. Instead, some journalists rushed to seek denials from Palestinian government officials, who tried to discredit the whistle-blower by claiming that he was a Hamas supporter — a charge that sounds ridiculous, especially to all those who have known Khreishah for many years.

The Palestinian government — with the help of mainstream media in the West — does not want such statements to appear in the international media lest they affect financial aid to the Palestinians. The next time the Palestinian government complains about a financial crisis, it would be advisable for Western donors to translate Khreishah’s statements into English and read them before channeling additional funds to the Palestinian government’s coffers…Unless the Western donors enjoy being deceived and stripped of their money.

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Khaled Abu Toameh: How The Palestinian Authority Fights Corruption

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Jamal Abu Rihan is a Palestinian blogger and activist who is being held in a Palestinian Authority prison in the West Bank.

Security forces belonging to the Palestinian Authority government arrested Abu Rihan after he created a Facebook group called “The People Want to End Corruption.”

Demanding reform and democracy has become a crime in the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Direct and indirect criticism of Palestinian Authority leaders has also become a crime that can land journalists, bloggers, cartoonists and political opponents in prison.

Instead of going after top officials suspected of embezzling public funds and abusing their powers, the Palestinian Authority government has chosen to wage an unprecedented clampdown on those who dare to raise their voices in support of transparency and freedom of speech.

Abu Rihan’s anti-corruption group on Facebook has won the backing of more than 6000 followers. These people clicked “like” and joined the group within days of its launching. Some of the followers, especially those living under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, now fear being thrown into prison for committing the crime of demanding an end to corruption.

The arrest of Abu Rihan and others is aimed at sending a warning to Palestinians against criticizing their government and leaders.

The Palestinian Authority government has also warned Palestinian journalists against reporting about the crackdown or helping Western correspondents cover the crackdown on journalists and bloggers.

In the past few weeks, Palestinian security forces summoned a number of Palestinian journalists for questioning about their ties with Western journalists and media outlets.

Palestinians say that the campaign of intimidation and harassment against the media is designed to prevent “negative reporting” about the Palestinian Authority government. The Palestinian Authority does not want anyone to report about corruption and abuse of power out of fear that this would affect financial aid from the US, EU, and other donors.

The clampdown has thus far been successful and most Palestinian and international journalists seem to have understood the warning. That is why the case of Abu Rihan, for example, has received almost no attention in the Palestinian and Western media.

If Abu Rihan were a Chinese dissident imprisoned by the authorities in Beijing, his case would have been endorsed by human rights groups around the world and the mainstream media in the West. Had Abu Rihan been arrested by the Israeli authorities for such a crime, his story would have most likely made it to the front page of many respected newspapers.

But when it comes to violations of freedom of expression in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is given a pass by many Americans and Europeans. By arresting reformists and critics, the Palestinian Authority is once again proving that it is not serious about combating corruption and reforming its institutions.

The crackdown on journalists, bloggers and political activists also serves as a reminder that the Palestinian Authority government is not different than most of the dictatorships in the Arab world.

Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Salam Fayyad’s Hypocrisy

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

The Palestinian Authority government of Salam Fayyad, announcing this week the launching of the 2012 Award for Press Freedom, invited Palestinian journalists to submit their candidacy for the prestigious award, the first if its kind in the Palestinian territories.

The award is intended to encourage freedom of media and speech in the Palestinian territories, where local journalists have long been facing a campaign of intimidation and harassment by the two Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ironically, the news about the launching of the new award coincided with the arrest of Youssef Shayeb, a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah, on charges of “slander and defamation.”

Fayyad’s security forces in the West Bank arrested Shayeb after he published a report in a Jordanian newspaper exposing corruption in the Palestinian diplomatic mission in France. He was first detained for 48 hours, after which a Palestinian court extended his detention for an additional two weeks.

The arrest of Shayeb exposes Fayyad’s double standards when it comes to freedom of expression. In public, Fayyad is telling his people and the rest of the world how much he cares about freedom of expression. To back up his claim, he has gone as far as announcing an annual award for press freedoms that would conferred upon a Palestinian journalist, chosen by a special panel of experts.

Behind the scenes, however, Fayyad’s security officers are busy arresting and intimidating any journalist who exposes corruption or voices criticism of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah.

To avoid responsibility for any wrongdoing, Fayyad’s aides claim that their boss has no real control over the Palestinian security forces and point to President Mahmoud Abbas as the man to blame for the clampdown on journalists.

If Fayyad has no control over the security forces, then why does his government continue to pay salaries to tens of thousands of Palestinian policemen and security personnel?

Moreover, what is preventing Fayyad from speaking out against the Palestinian security forces if he is not happy with some of the things they are doing?

How can Fayyad distance himself from the Palestinian security forces one day and take credit for restoring law and order in the West Bank another day?

And how can Fayyad argue that he is serious about fighting corruption in Palestinian Authority institutions and, at the same time, arrest a journalist for exposing a corruption scandal in a diplomatic mission?

Even if Fayyad does not have direct control over the various branches of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank — as he claims — his job as prime minister necessitates that he be fully responsible for what happens in territories that are under his jurisdiction.

Fayyad is mistaken if he thinks that he can fool Palestinian journalists through double-talk. The arrest of the Palestinian journalist this week by his security forces has drawn strong condemnations from a large number of Palestinians.

A prime minister who orders his security officers to arrest a journalist because of an article is not a “reformist”. Nor is he someone who deserves the respect of the international community for supposedly being “liberal” and “open-minded”.

Many Palestinians were pinning high hopes on Fayyad mainly because he is not affiliated with Fatah or Hamas.

But there is a saying in the Arab world that if you live 40 days among any people, you become part of them. Fayyad has been living with Fatah and Hamas for too long; that is why he has begun to act and speak like them.

 

Originally published by Gatestone Institute www.gatestoneinstitute.org

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/salam-fayyads-hypocrisy/2012/04/01/

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