Australian probe clears World Vision over Gaza case
An Australian government probe has found no evidence taxpayer money was misused humanitarian NGO World Vision in the Gaza Strip, after Israel alleged millions of dollars were diverted to Hamas.
In August 2016, Israel accused World Vision's Gaza head Mohammed al-Halabi of siphoning off millions of dollars per year to the Islamist group that rules the Palestinian enclave, claims the NGO said it had seen no evidence for.
Australia had given millions of dollars to the charity's work in the Palestinian territories in previous years and immediately suspended its funding for their Gaza programmes, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) announcing a review.
"The review uncovered nothing to suggest any diversion of government funds," DFAT said in a statement Tuesday.
Halabi's court case is ongoing but his lawyers have accused the prosecution of refusing to hand over much of the evidence.
World Vision itself is also conducting an independent review of its operations to determine whether any graft occurred.
DFAT said funding to World Vision's programmes would remain frozen pending the result of the probe and Halabi's trial.
Tim Costello, chief advocate for World Vision Australia, said he was "very pleased and very relieved" at the findings.
"Our own ongoing audit has not uncovered any diversion of funds," he told AFP, though he stressed it would not be finalized until the summer.
"For DFAT to say there was no diversion of funds is very welcome."
A spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry declined to comment, saying it preferred to allow the trial to play out.