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November 9, 2004
Are They Keeping Arafat Alive To Find The Money?

As Yasser Arafat lies dying, a conclusion that appears less in doubt each day, the AP reports that the search has begun for millions -- possibly billions -- of dollars that the PLO leader may have stashed away during his forty-year reign as Palestinian leader:

In his four decades as Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat has run a murky financial empire that includes far-flung PLO investments in airlines, banana plantations and high-tech companies, and money hidden in bank accounts across the globe. ...

Forbes magazine ranked him No. 6 on its 2003 list of the richest "kings, queens and despots," estimating he was worth at least $300 million. Shalom Harari, a former top Israeli intelligence official, said Arafat may have stashed away up to $700 million, part of it for an emergency such as a new exile, especially with Israel threatening to expel him.

Two names frequently come up in connection with Arafat's money Rashid and Arafat's wife, Suha.

In the past 10 years, Rashid has handled hundreds of millions of dollars in Palestinian Authority revenue Arafat diverted from the treasury though a reformist finance minister, Salam Fayyad, said the money was invested on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and has since been restored to public control.

Suha Arafat, Arafat's wife of 13 years and mother of his daughter, lives in Paris and has received monthly payments of $100,000 from the Palestinian coffers, according to a senior official in Arafat's office. This year, French prosecutors launched a money-laundering probe into transfers of $11.4 million into her accounts. She has refused to talk to reporters about Palestinian finances.

Over the past few days, a feud has erupted between the cosmopolitan Suha Arafat and the Palestinian Authority leadership. Suha has barred Arafat's aides from contacting his doctors or seeing Arafat at the hospital, while stories of Suha's expensive tastes have floated to the surface in the international press. In the meantime, conflicting stories regarding Arafat's condition have been reported, ranging from brain-death to coma to unconsciousness.

This morning, the AP reports that the hospital itself finally acknowledged that Arafat has sunk into a coma and that his prognosis is poor:

Estripeau said the deterioration in the Palestinian leader's condition "marks a significant stage."

"The state of health of President Yasser Arafat worsened in the night of Nov. 8 to Nov. 9," Estripeau said. ... "The comatose state that led to his transfer to intensive care grew deeper this morning," he said.

As they announced this for the first time, PA leaders Ahmed Qureia and Mahmoud Abbas made arrangements to rush to Paris to see Arafat and, one presumes, to have a showdown with Suha. Suha claimed that the PA was trying to bury her husband alive and insists he will recover and return to Ramallah.

It has all the hallmarks of either a money grab or a power struggle -- usually the two are entertwined anyway, and given Suha's near-complete indifference to Palestine in the past, it's much more likely to be the former. Despite being married to Arafat for 13 years, she hasn't been to the West Bank in four years, preferring to live in Paris. Given her lavish lifestyle, Suha obviously has some access to the money that Arafat has stashed away and doesn't want anyone to come between her and the fortune that Arafat skimmed from the Palestinian cause. Abbas and Qureia just as obviously want to take over whatever assets Arafat has for themselves.

It's a sad but appropriate exit for the world's oldest terrorist: to be nothing more than a pawn in his last days of those closest to him in a grubby tug-of-war over his extortion proceeds. Despite all of the adulation he received from his people for murdering and terrorizing the West, in the end he was never more than a dollar sign to those closest to him.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 9, 2004 5:10 AM

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» THE WICKED WITCH IS MELTING from Right Wingnuthouse
Word from Fox News that Arafat will be taken off life support sometime today. He probably died 2 or 3 days ago and the announcement was delayed while the PA and Mrs. Arafat could agree to divy up the tens of millions of dollars the baby-killer stole ... [Read More]

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» That Battle Over Arafat's Ill-Gotten Gains from
As Yassir Arafat lies on his death bed (assuming he is not already dead), the vultures are starting to circle over his fortune and his power. Captain's Quarters has an excellent post detailing the maneuvering between Arafat's wife who did not ... [Read More]

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