Palestinian Authority takes anti-corruption steps

Date: 06-28-05

By Wafa Amr

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The Palestinian attorney general said on Tuesday he had instructed police to detain several former Palestinian Authority officials over alleged financial mismanagement, in a rare move against suspected corruption.

Corruption and lack of financial transparency were rampant in the governing authority during Yasser Arafat's leadership and prompted foreign donors to withhold aid. Mahmoud Abbas, who became president after Arafat's death in November, has pledged to crack down on corruption.

"We have ordered the police and the specified authorities to arrest and bring for interrogation more than five former Palestinian officials on suspicion of financial corruption," Attorney General Ahmed Abu Assi told Reuters.

"If we find sufficient evidence against them, they will be tried and put in jail. We gave the list to the police to summon them because some are either outside the country or their addresses are unknown to us," he said.

Abu Assi's instructions marked the first time the Palestinian Authority has moved against officials suspected of corruption and misuse of public funds.

Another senior Palestinian official said the attorney general was dealing with 10 cases of alleged corruption involving millions of dollars of public money.

The official said the Palestinian Authority was considering asking some Arab states to hand over a number of suspects wanted for questioning.

Last month, James Wolfensohn, the former World Bank chief and now an international envoy helping to coordinate the financial aspects of Israel's planned Gaza pullout, said the Authority would have to address financial mismanagement if it wanted to receive more aid.

Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, who has won international praise for instituting financial reforms, said action must be taken now against officials suspected of corruption.

"We'll spare no effort to exercise accountability," Fayyad told Reuters.



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