A top-secret Palestinian Authority (PA) intelligence document obtained by TPS exposes an elaborate network of connections between Yasser Abbas, son of PA head Mahmoud Abbas, and other PA senior officials who are involved in terror-financing and money-laundering.
By: Baruch Yedid
The severe allegations leveled against Abbas and the other officials in the document include the financing of terrorism, money laundering, illegal money transfers and bribery.
Businessmen from several Arab countries conspired with PA officials, including from the PA’s foreign ministry, to launder funds for terror groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah and armed militias in Syria.
The network is also involved in tax evasion and money smuggling in the US.
The two primary figures at the center of the network are the brothers Assem and Issam Khourani, US and British citizens respectively.
Issam Khourani is a Lebanese businessman with British citizenship. He was also provided with a diplomatic passport by PA head Abbas, obtained through his son Yasser. He is involved in money laundering on behalf of the Hezbollah terror group and armed militias in Syria.
Assem Khourani, nicknamed Da Vinci, is an American citizen. He is involved in money laundering and illicit oil trade with Sudan. He was also provided with a diplomatic passport by Abbas and uses it to advance the network and breach US laws with the freedom the document affords him.
Yasser Abbas utilized his status to advance their network’s operations in several countries.
Sources told TPS that the two brothers obtained a PA diplomatic passport, despite the fact that they are not residents of the PA and in contradiction to the 1994 Oslo Accords with Israel.
The two brothers have a partner named Qassem Amar, and together they lead an oil empire, the Caratube International Oil Company (CIOC).
The brothers have also been implicated in incidents of murder, abduction, blackmail, drugs offenses, and the Interpol has petitioned the Lebanese and Swiss governments to obtained information about their assets.
The two also operated with Abbas junior in Ukraine, Montenegro, Sudan and in Kazakhstan, where they had set up their center of operations and established connections with the country’s ruling family and with the head of its intelligence agency. Issam married Gulshat Aliyeva, the sister of Rakhat Aliyev, the head of the Kazakh KGB, who in turn married Dariga Nazarbayeva, the eldest daughter of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Riad Maleki, the PA’s foreign minister, helped Yasser Abbas and Issam Khourani and utilized the PA’s embassies around the world for this purpose, the report says.
Mazzen Shmaye, the PA’s former ambassador to Kazakhstan, also helped Issam, who centered his operations on the oil trade in the country. Mazzen maintained ties with the Hamas terror organization through his brother, Dr. Maher Shmaye, a senior Hamas official. Mazzen utilized his position at the embassy to transfer funds from Issam’s companies to Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Supreme Shari’ah Judge in the PA and Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Religious and Islamic Affairs and Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice, was the one who connected Issam Khourani to PA head Abbas.
Fatah Satri, the PA’s former ambassador in Sudan, was instrumental in aiding the Khourani brothers to circumvent US law.
TPS has learned that Shmaye made frequent visits to Lebanon and the expenses, some as high as $150,000, were paid for by Issam Khourani.
Issam has also been involved in the murder of Russian TV star and a journalist for NTK television in Kazakhstan Anastaysia Novikova, who fell from the window of an apartment in Beirut in 2004. Khourani and his brother-in-law, Rakhat Aliyev, were charged with being complicit in abducting, imprisoning, raping and murdering Novikova.
Issam has also been tied to money laundering in Austria, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland.
The Lebanese police confirmed as far back as 2007 that Issam was suspected of involvement in terrorism in the country.
Arab media has also reported that Issam maintained business ties with the PA’s ambassador to the US, to advance his business in Sudan. The report did not provide the ambassador’s name.
The PA report also shows that senior PA Foreign Service officials helped Issam evade paying taxes in the US and trade oil with Sudan, despite the US sanctions on the country.
Issam maintained illicit trade ties with Sudan with the help of PA officials and used his PA diplomatic passport for this purpose. Assem made the actual deals with the Sudanese, with the involvement of Yasser Abbas.
The Arab media reported that Da Vinci worked to obtain citizenship from an Arab country so that he could win oil trade agreements with Sudan for Caratube. Some reports said that Yasser Abbas was involved in the process, with the help of the PA embassy in Sudan.
The Interpol has issued a warrant for Da Vinci and has asked the US and the UK to freeze the brothers’ assets.
The US’ Senate House Committee on Foreign Affairs in 2012 discussed the network.
An Israeli source has confirmed that Yasser Abbas’ ties with Hezbollah have been known by the IDF since 2014.
S.F., a former senior PA official, told TPS that “corruption is killing the PA, even before Abbas leaves office,” and that the PA can expect growing inner violence, carried out by armed militias, as part of an inheritance and power battle, in the near future.
Another senior PA official, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that the PA’s resources are very limited, even before Israel cut the tax transfers to the PA over its practice of paying terrorists.
“These resources have become private property and are exploited by a group of corrupt leaders,” he said, noting that as a result “the PA is fading away and now the future of tens of thousands of Arabs is in danger.” (TPS)