French probe bank transfers to Arafat widow

20th April 2005, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, April 20 (AFP) - French investigators are tracking USD 7 million (EUR 5.3 million) transferred by PLO treasurer Nizar Abu Ghazaleh to the Paris bank account of ex-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's widow, The Wall Street Journal said Wednesday.

WASHINGTON, April 20 (AFP) - French investigators are tracking USD 7 million (EUR 5.3 million) transferred by PLO treasurer Nizar Abu Ghazaleh to the Paris bank account of ex-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's widow, The Wall Street Journal said Wednesday.

Palestinian officials said the Palestine Liberation Organisation controlled a bank account in Tunisia from which millions of euros in unexplained payments were made to Suha Arafat - payments they suspect were connected to contracts issued by the Palestinian Authority (PA) under Yasser Arafat before he died last year, the report said.

The officials are trying to find out whether the money transferred to Suha Arafat came through Al Bahr and Al Sakhra, two companies which routinely handled purchase orders placed by the PA and which apparently were seeking, according to one official, to "create a war chest in case the PLO fell back on hard times," it added.

As head of PLO finances, Ghazaleh played a key role in the transfers to Suha Arafat, according to Palestinian officials and French judicial officials probing PLO funds, it said.

Ghazaleh, who died last week, was also chairman of Al Bahr, and Suha Arafat played a key but unofficial role at the firm, helping to broker purchases, according to the daily.

The investigation follows a European Union probe that found no mishandling by the PLO of the more than USD 500 million (EUR 384 million) the EU donated to the Palestinian Authority from 2000 to 2003. The French inquiry focuses on the legality of the funds passing through Suha Arafat's Paris account.

The Wall Street Journal said that neither Suha Arafat nor her family members, nor PLO Chairman Mahmud Abbas or officials of Al Bahr or the PA could be reached for comment.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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