U.N. Palestinian Agency Chief Steps Aside After ‘Sexual Misconduct, Nepotism, Corruption’ Allegations

Pierre Krahenbuhl, Commissioner General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), speaks during a press conference at an UNRWA school in Gaza City on January 22, 2018. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP) (Photo credit should read MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images)
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty

The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees has stepped down after a leaked internal report alleged corruption, sexual misconduct, antisemitism, and mismanagement at the agency’s highest levels.

Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general of the agency known as UNRWA, will be replaced on an interim basis by the agency’s acting deputy chief Christian Saunders, it said.

The agency said findings in the probe so far “revealed management issues which relate specifically to the commissioner general.”

An internal ethics report has alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the agency, which has also faced a financial crisis after US funding cuts.

As Breitbart Jerusalem reported, the investigation was first flagged back in August when New Zealand joined Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium in suspending aid to UNRWA over the report, which among other things alleges nepotism on the part of UNRWA Krahenbuhl.

One senior official named in the report stepped down from his post due to “inappropriate behavior” linked to the investigation, UNRWA said, while another resigned for what the agency called “personal reasons.”

In the wake of the leak, U.S. special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt called UNRWA “broken,” adding “We’re extremely concerned about UNRWA allegations.

“UNRWA’s model is broken/unsustainable & based on an endless expanding of beneficiaries. Palestinians residing in refugee camps deserve much better.”

Trump’s former UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, tweeted at the time, “This is exactly why we stopped their funding.”

U.N. investigators have been probing the allegations in the confidential report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP and describes in detail “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical abuses, including involving Krahenbuhl, a Swiss national.

It says the allegations include senior management engaging in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

Krahenbuhl himself was alleged to have been romantically involved with a colleague appointed in 2015 to a newly created role of senior adviser after an “extreme fast-track” process, the report says. That enabled her to join him on international business class flights, the report alleges.

UNRWA came under heavy financial constraints after the United States suspended and later cut all funding for it in 2018.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, along with Israel, accuses UNRWA of perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A number of other countries suspended their contributions pending the outcome of the probe into alleged mismanagement.

UNRWA employs around 30,000 people, mostly Palestinians.

Until last year when it cut funding, the U.S. was the single largest donor to the Palestinians and to UNRWA in history.

Israel is deeply critical of UNRWA, charging that the organization harbors terrorists and perpetuates the Palestinian “refugee” problem indefinitely, thus blocking a potential resolution to the conflict.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested the funds for Palestinian “refugees” be rerouted through another U.N. body such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which deals with the rest of the world’s refugees.

UNRWA has also come under fire on many occasions both for spreading antisemitic hate in its schools and employing members of terror organizations and supporters of terror. Breitbart News previously exposed an UNRWA summer program that was indoctrinating Palestinian children to hate Jews.

Last year, U.N. Watch released a 130-page report exposing 40 UNRWA school employees in Gaza and elsewhere who engaged in incitement to terror against Israelis and expressed “antisemitism, including by posting Holocaust-denying videos and pictures celebrating Hitler.”

That month, the agency also announced the suspension of an UNRWA employee suspected of having been elected a Hamas leader.

The U.N. itself released a report in 2015 that found Palestinian terror groups used three empty U.N.-run schools in Gaza as a weapons cache. Moreover, it said that in at least two cases terrorists “probably” fired rockets at Israel from the schools during the 50-day summer conflict in 2014 between Israel and Hamas.

AFP contributed to this report

Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: or e-mail to: skent@breitbart.com

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