An Australian government probe has found no evidence that taxpayer money was misused by NGO World Vision in the Gaza Strip, despite ongoing allegations by the Israeli government that millions of dollars were diverted from the organisation to Hamas.
Mohamed El-Halabi, the head of the group’s office in Gaza, was detained by Israeli forces in June and was charged by Israel with financing Hamas with funds from the organisation on 4 August.
Immediately following the accusations against El-Halabi – of which World Vision investigated in August and found no evidence – Australia, which according to AFP had given millions of dollars to the Christian NGO over the years, immediately suspended its funding for World Vision’s Gaza programmes and opened an investigation headed by the government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).
AFP cited a statement yesterday from the DFAT, saying that
the review uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government funds
Adding that the Australian government’s “funding to World Vision programmes in Gaza would remain frozen pending the result of El-Halabi’s trial.”
El-Halabi’s court case has been postponed until October, but his lawyers have accused the prosecution of refusing to hand over much of the evidence.
World Vision itself is also conducting an independent review of its operations to determine whether any graft occurred.
AFP quoted Tim Costello, chief advocate for World Vision Australia, as saying he was “very pleased and very relieved” with the findings of the DFAT investigation.
The DFAT report came as new allegations from the Israeli army surfaced, accusing Muhammad Murtaja, the director of the Gaza office of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), of diverting funds intended for TIKA to the military wing of Hamas.
Murtaja was detained by Israeli forces at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on 13 February 13 on suspicions that he was working for Hamas, which Israel considers a “terrorist organisation”. According to the Israeli army, Murtaja “falsified lists of needy Gazans, transferred aid packages, and diverted millions of shekels to the terror group.”