Arab Bank denies allegations over cash for terror

ARAB Bank last week denied allegations that it helped transfer money to the families of Palestinian fighters, insisting it made extensive investments to promote peace by financing projects in Palestinian territories.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  February 27, 2005

ARAB Bank last week denied allegations that it helped transfer money to the families of Palestinian fighters, insisting it made extensive investments to promote peace by financing projects in Palestinian territories. The bank, one of the largest private institutions in the Arab world with a global network, has had several major lawsuits filed against it by lawyers representing relatives of US citizens killed or injured in violence. The organisation is alleged to have helped move money to the families of suicide bombers. However, in a statement sent to Arabian Business, the bank said that support of militants or terror is “contrary to the bank’s innate business sense and ethos”. “Our banking role in the Palestinian territories has eased hardship and despair and undercut militancy,” said Shukry Bishara, chief banking officer, Arab Bank. “We launched projects that gave ... Palestinians hope for a better future,” he added. Arab Bank said last week it was considering withdrawing from the US and closing its New York branch, whose borrowers include 60 US blue-chip firms, because of the climate created by the lawsuits. However, the bank has not yet taken a final decision about quitting its US business. The bank, which has a balance sheet of US$36.5 billion, claims that projects it launched since the Arab-Israeli peace accords after 1993 worked against vio-lence in the West Bank and Gaza and improved living conditions among ordinary Palestinians. “A multitude of loan programmes designed to help finance the economy and targeting small and medium-sized micro-finance as well as infrastructure and corporate loans have all promoted economic development and job creation,” explained Bishara. “This has undoubtedly contributed to reducing violence rather than the opposite,” he added. Among the shareholders of the Amman-based bank are the region’s most successful private enterprise businessmen and Palestinian tycoons. One of these was former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al Hariri, killed a fortnight ago by a car bomb in Beirut. Hariri’s family interests control around 15% of the bank’s shares. Arab Bank, which has approximately US$4 billion of total banking deposits in the territories is now pinning its hopes on a new strategy for peace by Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

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