Malaysia freezes bank accounts of pro-Palestinian NGO over possible misuse of US$14.9 million in funds

Malaysia’s anti-corruption agency on Thursday said it had frozen dozens of bank accounts linked to a local pro-Palestinian NGO as part of an investigation into possible misappropriation of some 70 million ringgit (US$14.9 million) in funds raised through public donations.

Last month, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) launched a probe into allegations of abuse of funds by non-profit organisation Aman Palestin, as the government pushes a local and international campaign demanding an end to the Israel-Gaza war which has reportedly killed over 14,000 Palestinians and around 1,200 Israelis.

The MACC said in a statement that it had frozen nearly 16 million ringgit in funds held in 41 bank accounts linked to Aman Palestin and several other entities effective Wednesday.

“The MACC also conducted a search of Aman Palestin’s premises and procured documents related to their financial and management operations over the past five years,” it said.

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The commission said its preliminary findings, aided by statements by several key witnesses, had identified “several issues” linked to possible abuse of funds that were allegedly used for purposes beyond the NGO’s intended objectives. It did not elaborate further.

The MACC said Aman Palestin was being investigated under three separate laws dealing with corruption and money laundering, which carry penalties of up to 20 years in jail and hefty fines that could run into the millions of ringgit if convicted.

Formed in 2004, Aman Palestin’s aim is to channel aid and look out for the welfare and human rights of Palestinians, according to the group’s website.

The NGO said its activities include providing emergency, welfare and humanitarian aid to Palestinians for as long as they remain in conflict with Israel.
The decades-old conflict between Israel and Palestine has long been a rallying cause in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which does not recognise Israel as a legitimate state.

Malaysia’s government has been on an aggressive campaign both at home and overseas to demand a ceasefire and for urgent humanitarian aid for Palestinians after Israeli forces launched a counteroffensive in Gaza last month, in retaliation to a deadly assault by Hamas on a music festival and villages in south Israel.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has been pushing an all-of-government approach to the campaign, which included donating 1 million ringgit to a government-managed donation drive to fund humanitarian aid for Palestinians and organising solidarity rallies that extended to schools.

Earlier this month, Anwar reaffirmed Malaysia’s “ironclad commitment” to the Palestinian cause at an emergency Arab-Muslim summit.

He had also declared that the country would not bow to pressure to change its stance on Palestinians and Hamas, after revealing in parliament that the United States had sent at least two formal diplomatic notes asking his government to reconsider its position.

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