The son of the Palestinian Authority president Tareq Abbas is already said to own villas in Amman, Jordan and a rooftop pad in Beirut, Lebanon.
Now, according to a review of official British Land Registry records from 2012, the world can know Tareq registered – under his legal name – the purchase of a US$1.5m luxury two-bedroom flat in Merchant Square East, one of London’s many high-end developments.
Realtors hawked Tareq’s newest address as a “prestigious waterside building” in a “chic, contemporary style with high specification amenities and furnishings” within walking distance of an area full of “traditional old English pubs and new bars and restaurants”.The building itself is part of “regeneration” taking place around Paddington Basin to increase investment and property value.
Tareq’s flat has stayed largely unoccupied since he bought it, which seems to indicate he does not need the rental income he could derive from its purchase. A quick calculation shows he could fetch about $4,300 per month in rent.
It was so left to apparent neglect that lawyers representing Merchant Square threatened to sue him in 2014 for “breach of obligations” for more than $6,700 in unpaid parking and storage fees, which he later paid.
Tareq failed to respond to Al Jazeera’s questions about his finances or how he came to own the place. No doubt he is aware that most Palestinians, with an average yearly gross national income of $3,060, couldn’t afford to rent the London apartment of their president’s son for even a single month.
Nor is Tareq the only multi-millionaire in the Abbas family. The president’s eldest living son, Yasser, made his fortunes from, among other things, the monopoly sale of US-made cigarettes in the occupied territories, offering Lucky Strikes and other carcinogens to Palestine’s tobacco addicted.
Which must leave Palestinians wondering: are their financial blessings merely the result of being “Grade A businessmen,” as Yasser once famously remarked?
The brothers Abbas enjoy a personal wealth that eludes nearly all their compatriots. Average Palestinians could hardly be faulted for questioning whether Papa President played a part. (Attorneys for Yasser claim the reverse is true – that “politics often affects the business of Mr Abbas negatively”.)
Thankfully, the public now has more information from which to form a view. As recently reported in Ha’aretz, leaked records from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca show Tareq Abbas as having at least $982,000 in shares of the Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC), a British Virgin Island incorporated firm where he serves as a board member.
The same tranche of Panama Papers also revealed that the Palestinian Authority’s billion-dollar investment portfolio, the Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF), owns 18 percent of APIC.
Incidentally, President Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority wields significant influence over the PIF’s activities. I presume his children would have us believe their dad leaves the room anytime APIC or his children’s business pursuits are mentioned in the course of his official duties.
Little wonder then a May 2016 poll reported on by the Associated Press showed that almost all Palestinians – 95.5 percent – believe there is corruption in Abbas’ government.
But you won’t hear much public airing about these complaints within the little Area A statelet President Abbas lords over like a mini Caesar. This is territory, of course, where dissidents are disappeared and tortured, websites are closed, and journalists are surveilled and harassed.
But that doesn’t stop people from thinking that corruption is rampant. Since his own kids do so little to correct that widely held impression, one can only conclude they don’t give a damn. Why should they?
The last time Abbas faced the voters was 10 years ago, and no future poll is in the offing.
As for managing negative publicity, Tareq should know a thing or two about how to minimise it. He has held a variety of profitable leadership functions with the Ramallah-based Sky Advertising Company over the years, and now serves as Sky’s Chairman of the Board.
During Tareq’s tenure, the firm has helped bring in an eclectic range of international heavyweight companies, including Qatar’s Ooredoo/Wataniya Mobile, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), even the BBC World Service.
Left off of Sky’s corporate website is Tareq’s earlier involvement in a controversial US government contracts, as previously revealed by Reuters news agency. His Sky Advertising Company took a sizeable piece of a $2m tender from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) back in 2006.
Sky’s specific mission was to “improve the image of the United States in the Occupied Territories”, which then, as now, is sorely in need of improving.
Former US president George W Bush’s 2002 “roadmap for peace”, endorsed by President Abbas, aimed for a Palestinian state by the end of 2005. The music stopped as 2005 came and went, and no doubt the embarrassed and double-crossed Palestinian Authority officials went scrambling for chairs.
The Americans may have sent them on a fool’s errand. But at least they were charitable enough to throw the president’s kid a contract to make some money.
Alas, nearly 10 years later, we learn that Tareq was kind enough to recycle his hard-earned occupation dollars back into the Western economy.
To the country, no less, that gave rise to Lord Balfour and his declaration promising another people a home on the land where his father once lived. The octogenarian long ago ceded his own right to return and live in Safed some day.
And the two-state prospect President Abbas held out for all these years is now more remote than ever.
As for his son, if there won’t be Palestine, there will always be London. And I suspect the child of privilege does not care if you know he can enjoy it at any time.
This article was first published by Al-Jazeera.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.