An Australian government review has found no evidence of allegations that an aid worker siphoned off millions of dollars to Hamas while he was working for a Christian charity, reports The Guardian.
In August 2016, Israel accused Mohammad El Halabi, head of World Vision Gaza, of diverting millions of dollars a year to the Islamist group – a claim the charity had seen no evidence for.
When the news broke, the Australian government suspended its funding for World Vision’s Gaza programmes, to which it had given millions of dollars and ordered the review. But in a statement on 21 March Australia’s Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said: “The review uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government funds”.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the review, saying it preferred to allow the trial to play out.
In August 2016 the Ministry said it had discovered that Halabi is “actually a major figure in the Hamas terrorist organisation,” and that it had sent a letter to foreign ministries around the world “detailing Halabi’s diversion of funds”. Halabi had been arrested in June 2016, and Israel’s foreign ministry say that, during investigation, he revealed that “he diverted approximately $7.2 million per year to the military wing of Hamas”. His court case is ongoing, but his lawyers have accused the prosecution of refusing to hand over much of the evidence.
Tim Costello, chief advocate for World Vision Australia, said: “Our own ongoing audit has not uncovered any diversion of funds,” though he stressed it would not be finalised until the summer.