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Hamas levies fees and fines to break banks

November 29, 2011

In a move that Occupy Wall Street would approve of, Hamas is engaged in a systematic shakedown of Gaza banks.  Not content with the smalltime bank robberies that their hired goons had been committing, Hamas has determined that it would be more lucrative to adopt the Western neo-socialist model of expropriating millions of dollars from the banks through judicial or quasi-legal means.  From the New York Times on Nov. 17:

GAZA — In what could be the first of many such decisions, a Hamas-appointed court this week ordered two major banks in Gaza to pay tens of millions of dollars in back fees and fines for refusing to accept the taxing power of the Hamas government, rather than its West-Bank-based rival, the Palestinian Authority.

Bank officials, who boycotted the judicial hearings, said the decision, handed down by a lower court earlier this week, might force them to shut down temporarily, at least, further reducing access to money in this isolated coastal enclave…

The ruling on the banks was not published in any publicly available forum, so details were incomplete. But officials said that the Bank of Palestine, one of the largest banks in the West Bank and Gaza, was ordered to pay $113 million in taxes and fines.

The decision also bans 11 members of the bank’s board of directors who live here from leaving Gaza.

A similar ruling from the same court was issued against the Palestine Islamic Bank, but the amounts of the fines were not available, and bank officials declined to discuss them. There are nine banks in Gaza, and all of them, along with companies that import fuel and electricity and operate cellphones, may face similar rulings as cases make their way through the courts here…

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