Israel: World Vision manager in Gaza funneled money to Hamas

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's internal security service says it has arrested a senior employee of international charity World Vision who it says funneled millions of dollars the group's funds to Hamas.

The Shin Bet says Thursday that it arrested Mohammed Halabi, a manager at World Vision in Gaza, in June. It says Halabi transferred up to $50 million dollars over the years to Hamas, which rules Gaza.

World Vision is based in Federal Way.

The Shin Bet says Hamas used the funds to build tunnels and military posts and to purchase arms.

The agency says Halabi used a "systematic and sophisticated mechanism" to siphon off funds that included submitting inflated receipts and falsely listing Hamas operatives as workers on World Vision projects.

It says World Vision humanitarian aid to Gaza was largely diverted to Hamas operatives and their families.

World Vision released a statement on the accusation:

On June 15th, 2016, Mohammad El Halabi, the manager of operations for World Vision in Gaza, was arrested on his way home from routine meetings. On August 4th 2016, after 50 days in Israeli state detention, Mohammad was charged with providing support to Hamas. World Vision was shocked to learn of these charges against Mohammad.

World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. World Vision has been working in Israel/Palestine for over 40 years, striving to give hope to over 500,000 of the most vulnerable children, through education, health, child protection and resilience programs. "We continue to call for a fair, legal process."

World Vision subscribes to the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality and therefore rejects any involvement in any political, military or terrorist activities and maintains its independence as a humanitarian aid agency committed to serving the poor, especially children. 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 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. We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence. We continue to call for a fair, legal process for Mohammad.