Wife Fights For Arafat's
Huge Fortune -'Billions Missing'

By Matthew Kalman
Yasser Arafat's wife was battling for a share of his fortune as the Palestinian leader lay fighting for his life in hospital last night.
With assets estimated at between $A350 million and $7 billion, Arafat is thought to be one of the world's wealthiest heads of state.
His wife, Suha, hopes to inherit at least part of his fortune. But Palestinian leaders are demanding it be handed over to their people.
Arafat's assets are managed in a network of bank accounts, holding companies and stocks. The details are known only to his closest confidant, financial adviser Mohammed Rashid.
While Mrs Arafat has access to some of the money, she does not know the inner workings of the accounts.
She is reported to have asked Rashid to make a list of her husband's assets.
He is said to have refused, saying he would report only to the Palestinian Authority.
The Arab TV station al-Jazeera said Arafat had written a will leaving at least some of his fortune to his wife and their daughter Zahwa, 9. Other reports said Arafat has no will, leaving most of his fortune in the hands of Rashid.
Mrs Arafat, 42, who has lived in Paris for four years, whisked her 75-year-old husband to hospital last weekend.
The Christian, Sorbonne university-educated Suha married Arafat in 1993.
She left the couple's Gaza home in January 2001 and took their daughter to Paris, where they have lived ever since in a five-star hotel.
Earlier this year, French officials investigated the transfer of $15 million from Swiss bank accounts to accounts she controls in France.
With Arafat apparently on his death bed, Palestinians asked what happened to the billions in aid they received from the international community.
They suspect Mrs Arafat's lifestyle - as well as the cars, villas and expensive educations of other prominent Palestinian families - was paid for with cash stolen from donors and tax revenues.
Last year, the International Monetary Fund said $1.2 billion had been "diverted" from the Palestinian budget up to the year 2000.
Swiss investment adviser Jean-Claude Robard says Arafat opened his first secret bank account in 1965 with a $75,000 cheque from the Emir of Kuwait. Since then he has set up accounts in Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands.
Jaweed al-Ghussein, the former chairman of the Palestine National Fund, said banking experts had been unable to find "several billion dollars" in secret accounts.
Al-Ghussein, 74, who ran Palestine Liberation Organisation finances for 12 years until 1996, said he gave Arafat a monthly cheque of about $17 million.
Arafat also owns several hotels and holiday resorts in Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, and Austria.
After the Oslo Peace Accords in 1994, tax and customs fees collected by Israel on Palestinian salaries and goods were transferred to a Tel Aviv bank account in Arafat's name. Between 1996 and 2000, Israel paid him $750 million in tax on oil sales alone.



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