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World Vision: Alleged $50M Theft By Charity's Employee Seems Impossible

World Vision is rebutting Israeli claims that the charity's Gaza Strip director diverted tens of millions of dollars in donations intended to help the people of Gaza, and gave it to the Hamas militant group.

As we reported, Israel indicted Mohammad El Halabi last week and said, among other things, "Money raised to support injured children in Gaza was diverted to the families of Hamas militants who claimed their children were wounded ... Money was paid as salaries to Hamas militants who were falsely registered as World Vision employees ... [and] Costs for legitimate projects such as greenhouses were inflated, with the extra money going to Hamas."

The president and CEO of World Vision Kevin Jenkins says the group is investigating but, on their face, the numbers don't support the scope of the alleged theft.

"World Vision's cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past ten years was approximately $22.5 million, which makes the alleged amount of up to $50 million being diverted hard to reconcile. Mohammad El Halabi was the manager of our Gaza operations only since October 2014; before that time he managed only portions of the Gaza budget. World Vision's accountability processes cap the amount individuals in management positions at his level to a signing authority of $15,000."

Jenkins says the group is carrying out "a full review, including an externally conducted forensic audit."

Jenkins describes World Vision's work:

"Last year, our work in Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, directly benefitted more than 92,000 children; nearly 40,000 of those were in Gaza. These projects focus on children's psychosocial needs, as well as providing medical and other supplies to hospitals, food relief, and re-establishing agricultural livelihoods. These projects have been visited and reviewed by officials from the German and Australian governments, by international donors and our staff and leaders from other countries."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 9, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous version of this post misidentified World Vision's CEO as Keith Jenkins. He is Kevin Jenkins.
Barbara Campbell