Australia suspends aid for World Vision charity over Hamas funding allegations

5 Aug 16

Australia has suspended its aid for global Christian charity World Vision after Israeli security forces charged one its senior officials in Gaza for feeding millions in donor funds to Hamas.


Mohammad El Halabi, manager of operations for World Vision in Gaza, was arrested in June by the Israeli domestic security service Shin Bet. He was charged with a number of crimes yesterday, including funding terrorism.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced today that it would suspend any further funding for World Vision in Palestine until investigations had been completed.

In a statement, it said was looking in to the allegations as a “matter of the highest priority”.

“Any diversion of the generous support of the Australian and international community for military of terrorist purposes by Hamas is to be deplored and can only harm the Palestinian people,” it stated.

According to Shin Bet’s allegations, 60% of all funds send to Gaza by World Vision (a total of $7.2m), was used to build a military base, dig military tunnels, pay the salaries of Hamas fighters and buy weapons.

Australia has reportedly donated a total of $5m to World Vision’s programmes in Palestine over the past three years, while $80,000 in British funds were allegedly used to build a military base.

Food and health packs intended for Gaza residents were also allegedly given to Hamas operatives rather than their intended recipients.

PFI understands that there is no evidence to suggest that the British funds allegedly involved came from the UK government or, more specifically, its Department for International Development, which has never directly funded World Vision’s operations in Palestine.

However, a spokesman said: “We are in touch with the Israeli authorities to establish the full details of allegations against this individual and would not hesitate to act if wrongdoing involving UK government funding became apparent and was proven.”

World Vision said it has seen no evidence to suggest funds were funnelled to Hamas by Halabi, who has been in custody for 50 days and reportedly spent about half of them without a lawyer.

Shin Bet has said there was no evidence that the charity’s main office had been aware of Halabi’s alleged actions.

In a statement, the charity said it was “shocked” to learn of the charges against him and called for a fair legal process.

It continued: “World Vision has detailed procedures and control mechanisms in place to ensure that the funds entrusted to us are spent in accordance with applicable legal requirements and in ways that do not fuel conflict but rather contribute to peace.

“World Vision programmes in Gaza have been subject to regular internal and independent audits, independent evaluations, and a broad range of internal controls aimed at ensuring that assets reach their intended beneficiaries and are used in compliance with applicable laws and donor requirements.”

World Vision Australia chief executive Tim Costello told Guardian Australia that the charges were “incredibly mystifying” as all of the charity’s forensic audits, done by PwC, were “absolutely clean”.

According to Shin Bet, Halabi admitted to having been a member of Hamas since his youth and that he was ordered to infiltrate the charity. He allegedly also implicated his father, a senior official in the United Nations agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

A Hamas spokesperson, which is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU, UK and others, told Reuters that the group had “no connection” to Halabi and that all Israeli accusations “are void and aim to suppress our people”. 

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