Swiss pull funding from UN Palestinian refugee agency amid spiraling corruption scandal

Switzerland is temporarily halting funds to UNRWA as a corruption scandal threatens to engulf the agency’s top leadership.

By World Israel News Staff

The Swiss foreign ministry will temporarily stop payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) amid a brewing corruption scandal among the agency’s leadership, website swissinfo reports.

The agency’s commissioner-general, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, and his close confidantes, have been accused of “abuses of authority for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives,” UNRWA’s Ethics Office said in a confidential report. It also alleges sexual misconduct.

Kraehenbuehl, 53, is a Swiss national. The report accuses him of using the financial crisis last year caused by the U.S. cutting funding to UNRWA due to its corruption as an excuse to take “an extreme concentration of decision-making power” for themselves.

According to the report, soon after he was appointed in 2014 he began taking trips to the Gulf with an UNRWA official, Maria Mohammedi, and their relationship went “beyond the professional.” He appointed her as his senior adviser and used his authority to enable her to travel with him at the organization’s expense.

UNRWA has already come under criticism from the Swiss government, which paid the agency $20 million just this year, swissinfo reports.

In May, Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis said that that U.N. relief agency hinders peace by keeping Palestinian refugees in camps, where they continue to dream of returning home, rather than helping them integrate into their countries of residence.

“It is unrealistic that all of them can fulfill this dream. Yet the UNRWA keeps this dream alive,” Cassis said. “For a long time the UNRWA was the solution to this problem, but today it has become part of the problem. It supplies the ammunition to continue the conflict. By supporting the UNRWA, we keep the conflict alive. It’s a perverse logic,” he said.