What is known about the PLO’s finances?
In the 1970-1982 period, the PLO ran its own state within the southern zone of Lebanon. The weak Lebanese government did not exercise sovereignty over the area, the PLO did. As a result, the PLO was able to put together legal and illegal commercial activities that produced an enormous income for the organization and the start of an asset base that soared into the billions of dollars. Their ventures covered a broad spectrum from legal manufacturing to drug trafficking, protection rackets, robberies, hijackings, and the training of foreign terrorists. Revenues from drugs, the most lucrative source, are estimated at more than $300 million annually.
The traffic in arms and drugs was assisted by airport investments. The PLO owned duty-free stores at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi and the infamous Murtala Mohammad International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria. It purchased interests in airlines from the Maldives to Nicaragua. These holdings gave it a base for forged travel documents and airline tickets [documented in the Task Force and Unconventional Warfare, US House of Representatives' Republican Resource Committee (October 4, 1991)]. Arab states, for varied reasons, provided Yasser Arafat with considerable funding, particularly after the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon in 1982 cut off many of the activities there. The PLO steadily received at least $100 million a year from the Arab states since 1973, but the amount has edged toward $250-300 million a year by the early 1990s. According to PLO records made public in 1988, the Saudi authorities over the previous decade had donated $855 million. Kuwait, announced that the Kuwaitis had provided Arafat's organization with $2 billion over 26 years, probably a low-ball figure. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was a financial disaster for the PLO. Arafat's support of Saddam Hussein caused the loss of support from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states. The revenue from Kuwait was cut off and Iraq did not make up the shortfall. After Iraq's defeat and expulsion from Kuwait, the PLO, in exile in Tunisia, was left far short of its prior levels of funding. But Arafat and the PLO were bailed out by the peace process. Between the signing of the Oslo Accords in August 1993 and July 2000, the US Congress appropriated $900 million in foreign aid to the PLO/PA, with the aim of moderating the PLO, distancing it from Hamas and inducing compliance with commitments made in the peace process. In fact, foreign aid to the PLO - lacking accountability and transparency - achieved a perverse outcome, exacerbating PLO/PA corruption and undermining US interests in the Mideast. The embezzlement of US taxpayer funding, on a vast scale, by Yasser Arafat and other members of the Palestinian Authority is detailed in the report "Corruption within the Palestinian Authority", referenced below. Intelligence agencies have tried to track and account for the vast cash flow of the PLO. In 1990, the CIA estimated that the PLO had between eight and fourteen billion dollars worth of assets. In 2000, the British National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) reported that the PLO had world-wide assets approaching $10 billion and an additional annual income of about $1.5 to 2 billion, generated from illegal activities.