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May 6, 2021 1:06 pm

Spanish Woman Charged After Shin Bet Uncovers Conspiracy by Palestinian NGOs to Divert European Government Funds to Terror Organization

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Palestinian PFLP supporters seen during a rally marking the 52nd anniversary of its founding, in the West Bank city of Nablus, on Dec. 14, 2019. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90.

A Spanish woman has been charged with violating Israel’s anti-terrorism laws, after security agencies discovered that she was part of a network diverting European government money to a Palestinian terrorist organization.

The Associated Press reported that the charges came at the end of a year-long investigation led by Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency, which concluded that Juana Ruiz Sánchez, 62 — a resident of the West Bank and a one-time employee at the Palestinian NGO Health Work Committees — had been part of a conspiracy to divert European monies to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The NGO’s senior accountant, and a former accountant and purchasing department manager, will also be charged in the near future.

The PFLP is a Leninist-Marxist, Palestinian nationalist organization that has engaged in brutal forms of terrorism since its inception. The Shin Bet started its investigation after a 2019 PFLP attack killed Israeli teenager Rina Shnerb and wounded her father and brother.

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The investigation found that seven Palestinian charities embezzled tends of millions of euros donated by European governments and funneled them to the PFLP.

An Israeli official told AP that the Health Work Committees and several other Palestinian NGOs “act under PFLP leadership and in accordance with the organization’s directives, as a cover for promoting the PFLP’s activities and funding.”

The Shin Bet said in a press release that the NGOs involved used various measures — such as reporting fictitious projects, transferring false documents, forging and inflating invoices, diverting tenders, forging bank documents and signatures, and  reporting inflated salaries — to launder and divert funds. The money was then used for payments to the families of dead PFLP terrorists, salaries for terrorists, recruiting new members, advancing and strengthening terrorist activity, funding PFLP terrorists in Jerusalem, and the dissemination of PFLP messages and ideology.

A senior official at the Shin Bet, also known as the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), said, “The ramified financial activity advanced by the Popular Front joins a long series of terrorist activities foiled by the ISA in recent years.”

Calling the PFLP “a murderous terrorist organization,” the official said, “The ISA will continue its timely actions against the terrorist and financial operations of the Popular Front, an organization that is unceasing in its efforts to undermine stability and security in Judea and Samaria and to promote terrorist activity against Israel.”

Professor Gerald Steinberg, the president of the watchdog group NGO Monitor, said, “For 20 years, European officials have been providing millions of euros to the Palestinian network of terror-linked groups, under the facades of human rights and civil society. Employing heavy secrecy, the Europeans continued to turn a blind eye to the clear terror links, claiming ‘there was no evidence’ or ‘we only fund projects, not NGOs.'”

“Along the way, they relied on NGO self-reporting instead of due diligence, funding the same Palestinian groups year after year,” he said. “Now that the details are in full view, perhaps the governments will finally freeze these funds and establish evaluation mechanisms that are consistent with the principles of good governance, transparency, and due diligence. This will not repair the damage already done, but at least prevent more.”

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