Recent disclosures indicate that Consolidated Contractors International (CCI), a Palestinian-run company, laundered Yasser Arafat’s stolen billions and distributed aid to terrorist organizations. These allegations, however, are not startling considering the company’s checkered history of cozying up to tyrants and influencing Western politicians.
CCI has always been something of a paradox in the murky shadows of Middle Eastern politics and business. Run by two wealthy Palestinians, its main offices and headquarters are located in Athens, Greece. CCI is one of the Middle East’s major players in the construction and oil industry; it has contracts and offices ranging from Azerbaijan to Sudan. The company is a prime example of the two-faced business and political culture in the Middle East.
Evidence suggests that aid money for needy Palestinians was siphoned off by Yasser Arafat and his cronies to pay for terrorism and to line their own pockets. Samer Khoury, Executive Vice President of Operations at CCI, was believed to have helped Arafat invest his stolen fortune in foreign businesses and high yielding investments. Khoury did this through regular meetings with Mohammed Rashid, Arafat’s chief financial advisor. These investments are believed to include diverse accounts from telecommunications companies in Brazil to a coffee plantation in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
CCI was founded by prominent Palestinians, Hassib Sabbagh, Said Khoury and the late Kamel Abdul-Rahman. Hassib Sabbagh, a Christian Arab is a highly influential businessman and has been active in spreading his influence and maintaining business and political contacts in the United States. Richard Murphy, a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, sits in Sabbagh’s chair at the Council on Foreign Relations. Sabbagh also gave money to former President Jimmy Carter’s Presidential library.
Sabbagh has also been heavily involved in Palestinian politics. He worked with the notorious terrorism supporter Abdul-Rahman Al-Amoudi and the late Edward Said on the American Committee on Jerusalem (ACJ). He was also a supporter of the Palestinian Right of Return movement and worked with a host of radicals from Islamists to far-leftists.
Kenneth Timmerman and others have revealed how Hassib Sabbagh helped Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Military build up a sophisticated network of scientists and companies to create a highly skilled workforce. This elite was used to help develop Iraqi chemical and biological weapons programmes during the early 1980’s. The Arab Projects and Development (APD) involvement with Iraq was believed to have been set up as a way for Palestinian’s to help repay Saddam for the help that he had given to their resistance movement, or to be more precise terrorism against Israelis.
Robin Cook, a former British Foreign Secretary and one of the UK’s most powerful and effective politicians, is one of the Iraq War’s and Tony Blair’s most vocal critics. He acted as a consultant to CCI during the build up to the war. However, he resigned this position just before the war began. The majority of Sabbagh’s “friends” and associates were very anti-war, especially Saddam Hussein and his cronies who had a great deal to lose. However, the company is now working on numerous contracts in post-liberation Iraq.
Abu Mazen, the Palestinian Prime Minister, and the European Union (EU) must call for an investigation into CCI and its senior staff for corruption. CCI put its signature on an anti-corruption project at the World Economic Forum (WEF) conference in Doha last year; in a bitter twist, it was Samer Khoury who signed it. These allegations may help to show the company’s real business practices. In a new developing Middle East, public and corporate accountability isn’t really that high up on the agenda. Multi-national companies like CCI have just as much power and influence as governments, and they also impoverish Middle Eastern populations through corruption and greed.
CCI is based in an EU country and investigators must see if the money from EU donors was being reinvested back into their countries. If the company helped facilitate the embezzlement of aid from the Palestinian people and helped to prolong the unnecessary intifada by channelling money to terrorists, it must be held to account. The rising tide of democracy that is gradually sweeping over the Middle East must be partnered with greater transparency within governments and big business. Without such an effort, the Middle East's corruption and violence can never be tempered.