PM Fayyad
Photo: AP

Bribery suspected in Hamas salary scandal

Senior employee at the Palestinian Authority Finance Ministry arrested on suspicion of accepting Hamas bribes to illegally transfer salaries to 3,500 members of Hamas security forces

A senior official in the Palestinian Authority Finance Ministry is suspected of illegally transferring yearly salaries to 3,500 members of the Hamas security forces, in violation of Fatah policy since Hamas' forceful takeover of the Gaza Strip in June.


A top Palestinian official told Ynet that following an investigation into the incident headed by the Palestinian finance minister and Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad, Finance Ministry employee Yusef al-Zumur has been arrested.


Members of Fayyad's government are accusing al-Zumur of being behind the "error", which led to the transfer of millions of dollars to Hamas' special forces.


The Palestinian Finance Ministry however vehemently denied that the transfers were for such a high sum. At first the Palestinian administration believed the transfer resulted from a computer glitch, yet a probe of the incident concluded otherwise.


It has not yet been decided whether al-Zumur alone will be indicted or whether the investigation will continue in search of additional suspects.


The incident threw the Palestinian echelons into turmoil because it was proof of unauthorized cooperation between senior Fatah officials with Hamas. Similar incidents apparently led to Fatah's collapse and Hamas' coup in the Gaza Strip earlier this summer.


'Not a mistake'

"There couldn't have been a mistake here," a senior Palestinian source told Ynet. "There are three CD ROM's for salaries in the Finance Ministry – one for security forces not suspected of being in Hamas, one for clerks employed before Hamas entered the government, and one for clerks and security forces appointed by Hamas. The last group should not get their salaries, and therefore it's hard to believe that the money was transferred to the banks by accident."


Earlier Thursday Ynet reported that Fayyad set up an inquiry committee and that disciplinary steps were likely to be taken against several Palestinian Finance Ministry officials, and some may even be dismissed for incompetence. Now however it appears that the case is a criminal one and Hamas bribed Finance Ministry workers to attain the money.


One of the main sources of the money which reached Hamas forces was the roughly $400 million in taxes that Israel transferred to the PA this summer, which had been frozen when Hamas entered the government. The United States and Europe have also thawed their boycott of the PA and renewed the flow of money to Fayyad's administration.


Officials in Jerusalem said they viewed the incident with great severity. "It was promised to Israel that the money would not reach Hamas. According to the explanations we got from the PA, the money was handed over by mistake. We are looking into the affair," an official said.


Attila Somfalvi contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 08.09.07, 18:00
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