Palestinian Resources Diverted to the Foreign Countries

“Israel stole a large part of the Palestinian cultural heritage during the Lebanon war in 1982, and 20 millions of Palestinian money had been smuggled to Italy” said Palestinian Attorney-General Ahmed Mghanni. He told me this during our interview after he participated in 2009_03_06-489the United Nations Anti Corruption conference which took place between last 11 – 13 May, and the Asset Recovery Conference, which was held between 14 – 15 May 2009, both conferences took place in the Vienna International Center. Mghanni said that the UN Anti Corruption Conference “ACC” was to promote  cooperation among the countries which signed the agreement, and that it provided the opportunity for face-to-face dialogue and direct liaison between the representatives from the countries taking part.

AG Mghanni participated in these UN conferences for Palestine, which has not yet signed the UN Anti-Corruption agreement, as this is the responsibility of the Palestinian Justice. Mghanni said that we are interested in signing this agreement, but we must study it first. He stated that millions of Palestinian money and many other resources have been smuggled to other countries, and that the PA is interested to benefit from the exchange of experiences with other countries in their fight against corruption.

He pointed out that the Palestinians needs to know how to deal with the countries where our money has been smuggled to. We need to recover this money, or at least to have it frozen until it returns to us. The UN conference on asset recovery was held to strengthen the ability of developing countries to recover assets which have been stolen and hidden. We need this initiative to solve the problem of the millions from our estates, which have been smuggled abroad to many countries.

During his visit, an official meeting was held between Palestinian AG Ahmad mr-dimitri-vlassisMghanni and Dimitri Vlassis, Chief of the Corruption and Economic Crime Office at the UN. They discussed various issues, among them how the United Nations can help the Palestinian Attorney General and the Palestinian Judiciary in the development of new legislation against corruption, and how the UN could help in training Palestinians in dealing with corruption cases.

Another meeting was held at the Palestinian Embassy in Vienna between the AG Mghanni and the representatives of the Palestinian and Arab communities. Mghanni stated that many corrupt Palestinians run away from the Palestinian 2009_03_06-520Justice in the West Bank and Gaza. Some of them receive Israel help to escape justice. He mentioned the case of the former head of the Palestinian police of the PA in Gaza, Gazi Al-Jabali, who had been involved in corruption and who is a now assisting Khaled Mishal, the leader of Hamas in Syria. He also mentioned that many other corrupt Palestinians have established investment projects in the neighboring Arab and other countries, and that now these people are under the protection of these countries.

Palestinian Resources Diverted to the Foreign Countries

AG Mghanni said that the most dangerous corruption files which he 2009_03_06-514had received were the files of the Palestinian diversion of real estate to many foreign countries, like Spain, or Italy, where alone 20 millions of Palestinian money had been smuggled. Another example mentioned were the files of the General Petroleum Corporation. He said that each one of the heads of the General Petroleum Corporation was corrupted more than the one before him. The last President of Petroleum Corporation diverted 165 thousand to his personal account during his first in six months in office alone, and this is one of the most complicated corruption issues according to the AG. While these sums do not compare to well-known cases of corruption and malfeasance like Enron, they are huge sums by Palestinian standards.

Palestinian Judiciary Achievements and Problems

Ahmed Mghanni described the Palestinian judiciary as an independent authority which is better than the judiciary system in many Arab countries. He added “our 2009_03_06-516judiciary has achieved many positive goals in excess in terms of efficiency and work to eradicate corruption in other countries. We have 97 prosecutors, and 212 male and female judges, and we have achieved security in the Palestinian cities which are under PA control”. He denied the intervention of the legislative or executive authorities, as well as security, in the work of prosecutors. He said that they all respected the judiciary and the decisions which were issued. We had some problems with the Palestinian security before three years ago, but now everything works in the right way.

Mghanni said that they took judicial decisions requiring the release of some people illegally detainees by the Palestinian security. The security systems complied with their resolutions and actually released these prisoners.

A Huge Backlog of Cases

Mghanni clarified that the Palestinian judiciary is works normally, and that there are final decisions and a complete separation in the cases which reach the courts. But they also face a huge backlog of cases which date back to the years 2000 – 2005, when the Palestinian courts were not able to work due the Israeli military invasions and siege. The matter of these files is supposed to be resolved by the years 2010 – 2011 according to our plan.

The Palestinian judiciary works under several laws, among them the laws existing during the Ottoman empire, the British mandate, as well as the laws of the Egyptian, the Jordanian and Israeli military occupations. Since the establishment 25-feb-1079of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the first circle of the PLC enacted several new laws (about 43 laws), and other laws have been consolidated between Gaza and the West Bank. We have no integrated penal law, and no integrated law to deal with corruption cases. And there are still many laws which need to be amended – and this problem can’t be solved while the second circle of the Palestinian Legislative Council does not hold or discuss any issue or law. (In addition to what AG Mghanni said, I think that it is impossible to discuss about new legislation while more than half of the Palestinian Legislative Council is interned in the Israeli gulag).

Honor Killings In Palestine

What do you say about the increase number of honor killings and the murders of women in Palestine? Is this the right time to deal with this issue as a crime with premeditation and declare powerful laws which deter the perpetrators of these crimes?

Palestinian Attorney General Ahmad Mghanni: I can’t describe the honor killing as an organized crime. The prosecutors are dealing with this crime as a premeditation crime, but the punishment laws related to this crime and still implemented in Palestine are the Jordanian laws, which give lenient sentences to the criminals. In the new Penal Code which the Palestinian Legislative Council is supposed to adopt, and which was drawn up by the Palestinian Authority, there is severe punishment for honor killers, and we hope that this law applies. When, perhaps in the year 5000?

Israeli Penal Laws and Punishment

Recently, the Israeli court ruled that a Palestinian prisoner accused of killing Israelis in 2002 should pay nine million dollars. While the Israeli courts never rule or sentence the Israeli soldiers and the criminal settlers who are involved in thousands of murders of Palestinian civilians, of women, old men and of children. I asked Mghanny how the Palestinian judiciary will deal with the thousands of victims of the Israelis in the Palestinian cities?

Mghanny said that he heard about this issue, and that Israel decided to “deduct” 2009_03_06-595the 9 million dollars from the PA tax money which are held by Israel (actually, which Israel stole). I think that we must do the same, that the prosecutors should accept all the Palestinian complaints against the Israeli murders. But how will we implement any rulings of our courts against Israel? We don’t have any power to do that. We are still living under the occupation. Gaza and the West bank cities are all under the occupation, and anybody who says anything else is a liar.

Palestinian Embassy in Vienna

On Friday 15 May 2009 at 7:00 PM, AG Ahmad Mghanni spoke to a group of 2009_03_06-515bPalestinians and Arabs at the Embassy of Palestine in Vienna. Mghanni accused Hamas leader and member of the Palestinian Legislative Council Youssef Acharabi of allowing Hamas members to use his home to carry out the assassination of Fatah leaders and Palestinian security officials before the bloody military coup in Gaza in Gaza. He accused Hamas of murdering 622 Palestinians during the bloody military coup in Gaza in 2006, and of shooting other 1222 persons in their legs, hands and eyes.

Mghanni asked rhetorically how many Israelis Hamas had killed by shooting missiles, and how many Palestinian they had killed, how many houses and organizations they had destroyed? He criticized the kidnapping the Israeli war criminal Gilad Shalit after he compared the results of  capturing him with the mass destruction in Gaza.

Mghanni accused Hamas, as a group, of being “hallucinating” drug dealers who led Gaza into a disaster. But he clarified that he does not mean in his statement the Al-Qassam resistance, who he described as following a good ideology and a positive manner in their fight against the Israeli occupation. He described them as brothers of Fatah the resistance. He said that 99% of the Palestinians in Gaza are suffering of psychological problems.

Cursing God By Hamas Interrogators

The AG Ahmad Mghanni himself was captured by Hamas some time ago and obliged to stop his work as Attorney General, and then thrown out of Gaza. The AG said that the Hamas members who captured him where cursing God with very obscene shameful words while interrogating him. He said that he was with open mouth to hear such curses getting out of the mouth of people who declared themselves as a representatives of Hamas, a religious muslim group.

Mghanni also described the Netanyahu and Lieberman government as better than the government of Olmert and Livni – he said that at least the current government is clear to us more than the previous one.

Arguments With AG Mghanni

The Palestinian presents argued with the AG. Among them, Mr. Abu Mohammad Shoshari protested against the description of Hamas as drugs dealers, he told Mghanni that “the people who you described as drugs dealers are the only ones who raised our heads” during the Gaza massacre last January.
2009_03_06-522Engineer Said Khadra said that did not expect to hear Mghanni in the role of AG, to make such statements in which he expressed his partiality to the PA. He said that everybody, from both Fatah and Hamas, made mistakes, and that these “useless rockets” were the only thing which has made the Israelis feel that they are an occupation who does not have a link to the illegally occupied Palestinian land. Khadra also said that the donor countries who pay the salaries of the Palestinian authority are doing so in support of Israel, and not in support of the PA itself.

The meeting was ended with an intervention of Mustafa Abbas, the President 2009_03_06-532aof the Association of Arab Culture in Vienna, who suggested that the Muslims and the Arabs in Vienna must make activities which promote Jerusalem as a capital for the Arab Culture. “Through these activities we can show the Austrians and the world the extent of the Israeli oppression in Palestine” he said. Mustafa Abbas is well known and respected person among the Austrians and Arabs in Vienna. He continues organizing cultural activities related to Arab Culture, and he helps the local Arab community to manage their affairs in a positive way in Vienna.

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