...it was set to launch in June last year. Meanwhile, amid fierce local controversy, Wataniya managed to secure special additional loans from a US government programme that had been set up to help Palestinian farmers and small businesses – despite the backing it had from Qtel and, indirectly, banks such as JP Morgan.So all you out there who claim Israel is 'stealing' American money via tax-exempted charity funds - what do you say to all this blatant commercial investment of you hard-earne3d tax dollars?
Launching this programme in 2007, the State Department said it was aimed at ‘an olive grower who wants to expand operations, a young person with a small information technology company, or someone who wants to hire neighbours to produce and export Palestinian embroidery’ – not a £450 million mobile network.
The US loans to Wataniya, though worth a relatively modest £11 million, deprived other enterprises of them.
Let's go and see what this is all about:-
How Blair rescued Palestine deal worth $200m to his £2m-a-year paymasters
An investigation by The Mail on Sunday has revealed:
* Mr Blair spoke of the need to get Wataniya up and running in order to boost the Palestinian economy. However JP Morgan, the American investment bank that employs him as a consultant, has a financial stake in Wataniya through Wataniya’s owner, the Qatari firm Qtel, which is an important client of JP Morgan.
* Financial documents show that back in 2007, JP Morgan had been one of four ‘mandated lead arrangers’ of a $2 billion loan with which Qtel bought Wataniya from its original Kuwaiti owners. Last year, the bank joined a syndicate that lent Qtel a further $500 million, and became a ‘lead arranger’ for a Qtel bond issue which raised yet another $1.5 billion.
In these deals, JP Morgan would have been paid many millions of pounds in fees, and if the loans had gone bad, could have been exposed to substantial losses. ‘Its original exposure was probably around $200 million,’ one Wall Street expert said yesterday.
Last night a bank spokesman refused to comment, or to disclose any further details. He did not deny that Qtel was a significant JP Morgan client.
...Last night Mr Blair faced calls to publish full details of the myriad business interests that have netted him a personal fortune estimated to be at least £15 million since he left office.
He is paid not only by JP Morgan but also by the insurance giant Zurich, and his own private consulting firm, Tony Blair Associates, counts among its clients the royal families of Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.
...Mr Blair was appointed an envoy on leaving Downing Street in June 2007. He represents the ‘Quartet’ – the United Nations, the US, the EU and Russia. His special area of responsibility is the Palestinian economy. With ten rooms permanently booked at Jerusalem’s most expensive hotel, the American Colony, at an annual cost of £1.1 million, he spends a few days there each month.
As The Mail on Sunday reported last year, many Palestinian businessmen say his achievements have been limited. Projects he has loudly supported – such as an international business park near the holy city of Hebron – have come to nothing.
It gets better:
Critics pointed to the fact that involved with Wataniya were leading members of the Palestinian elite around Mr Abbas. Its Palestine chairman is Mohammad Mustafa – his financial adviser and closest associate, who accompanies him on virtually every foreign trip.
Yesterday The Mail on Sunday asked Mr Blair’s spokesman Matthew Doyle whether he had declared the bank’s interest in his meetings with the Israelis.
He replied in an email, saying only: ‘Tony Blair raised Wataniya at the request of the Palestinian Authority in his role as Quartet Representative. He has no knowledge of any connection between QTel and JP Morgan and has never discussed the issue with JP Morgan nor have they ever raised it with him. Any suggestion that he raised it for any reason other than the one stated to help the Palestinians or that in some way he has benefited from Wataniya is untrue and defamatory.’
Critics of the Wataniya mobile- phone project backed so strongly by Tony Blair claim it is marred by a longstanding feature of the Palestinian scene – cronyism, in which close associates of the ruling Fatah party leadership somehow manage to derive lucrative benefits.
In the case of Wataniya, the link could hardly be closer – for one big beneficiary of the firm’s investments is none other than Tarek Abbas, the son of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.
American-educated Tarek runs Sky, the West Bank’s biggest advertising agency. Last year, it was awarded a contract to be Wataniya’s lead advertising agent, with both a monthly retainer and further payments for individual campaigns.
Palestinian business sources say that its work for Wataniya has been worth approximately £700,000 in the past 12 months – almost certainly, the biggest advertising ‘spend’ in Palestine.
Meanwhile, businessman Firas Nasruddin, a friend of both Tarek and his father, owns Hemaya, a security company staffed by men in sunglasses and black uniforms, some of whom are former fighters against Israel in groups such as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Others are former Palestinian Authority police.
Hemaya has a contract to provide security for Wataniya personnel and installations.
...support for Wataniya has produced sizeable benefits for President Abbas’s family and friends.
"Palestine" isn't a country or a state. It's a business for Arabs to make money.
But why does the US get involved with foreign aid funds?
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