Claims World Vision employee funnelled $56 million to Hamas

THE manager of the Gaza branch of World Vision,Palestinian national Mohammad El Halabi has been charged with funnelling $56 million away from the Christian charity into the hands of an Islamist terrorist organisation. 

Fairfax reports El Halabi was charged by Israeli prosecutors on Thursday and stands accused of infiltrating the charity in order to redirect the money - something which allegedly went on for the past six years. 

World Vision Australia has this afternoon issued a statement saying al-Habibi has been denied procedural fairness and emphasizing these are presently mere charges. 

Chief Executive Tim Costello said the international his agency has not been presented any evidence to support the allegations made by Israel's domestic security agency.

Mr Costello said El Halabi, a well-respected manager with World Vision's Gaza office, had been detained for 50 days without charge until yesterday's allegations.

"Based on the information that we have available at this time, we have no evidence to suggest the allegations are true and we continue to call for a fair, legal process for Mohammad," he said.

Mr Costello said he was personally shocked by the nature of the allegations that have been made relating to systematic misappropriation of funds as World Vision has long standing and rigorous independent processes in place to ensure this does not happen.

The charity also says its programs 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.

"I want to reassure Australians that World Vision's money in Gaza is being spent on reducing poverty for Palestinian people, not terrorism.

"We have proper systems of financial management and independent auditors who audit the finances to ensure the money is being spent appropriately. This audit is reported to donor governments including the US, UK and Australia.

"At no point has there been any evidence to suggest misappropriation of money in Gaza," Mr Costello said.

"We maintain our independence as a humanitarian aid agency committed to serving the poor, especially children wherever we work all over the globe."

 Mr Costello said it was unclear what the legal process will be for El Halabi going forward but it is now up to the Israeli authorities to provide the evidence to support their allegations. 

"We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence. We hope Mohammed will receive a fair trial to fully test these charges."

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