PA Signs Anti-money Laundering Law Aimed to Block Hamas Funds

Hamas officials acknowledged new regulations would complicate Islamic group fundraising efforts.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has signed an anti-money laundering decree that could make it harder for Hamas to bring in funds and is also meant to reassure foreign banks that they can do business with their Palestinian counterparts, officials said Saturday.

Hamas officials acknowledged that the new regulations would make it harder for the Islamic militant group to bring in funds.

"This law may have some effect on the movement, but eventually it won't succeed in fulfilling its goal of drying up the financial sources of the Hamas movement," said a spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.

No bank will deal directly with Hamas. However, Palestinian officials from Abbas' Fatah movement have alleged that Hamas has made deals with moneychangers and merchants to receive funds from Iran, Arab countries and Islamic charities abroad. Cash is also believed to be smuggled through tunnels into Gaza.

Abbas signed the decree Friday, and it was published in the Palestinian media on Saturday.

Under the new regulations, violators face three to 15 years in prisons and fines of up to NIS 600,000.

Jihad Alwazir, the deputy governor of the Palestine Monetary Fund, said the regulations were put together with the help of the International Monetary Fund and were in line with international standards.

Alwazir said the new rules should reassure foreign banks that they can do business with their Palestinian counterparts without running afoul of U.S. and Israeli counter-terrorism regulations.

Two Israeli banks, Bank Hapoalim and Israel Discount Bank, announced several weeks ago that they were severing their ties with Gaza's banks. The Israeli banks are wary of inadvertently funneling money to Hamas.