Tags: Pakistan | Zardari | case | graft

Pakistan Asks Swiss to Open Zardari Graft Case

Wednesday, 31 March 2010 10:14 AM

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has asked Swiss authorities to reopen a money laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari under court pressure, an anti-corruption watchdog said Wednesday.

Although Zardari is immune from prosecution while in office, his government has come under mounting pressure to reopen scores of graft cases at home and abroad after the supreme court scrapped an amnesty shielding politicians.

Pakistan's supreme court gave the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) 24 hours until Wednesday to take action to reopen a graft case against the head of state, threatening its chairman with jail if he failed to comply.

A lawyer for NAB told the supreme court that the agency had initiated the process after being directed to revive and reopen "foreign cases".

"NAB has initiated the process by requesting the foreign authorities seeking revival of request for mutual assistance in related matters," NAB lawyer Abid Zubairi told the supreme court.

"Letters to Swiss authorities ie attorney general Geneva and federal office of justice have been transmitted," said Zubairi, adding that the Pakistani foreign ministry had been requested to dispatch the request formally.

"The NAB has written a formal letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases and this also includes cases against President Zardari," NAB spokesman Salar Ghazni Khan confirmed to AFP.

Tainted by corruption allegations, Zardari is nicknamed "Mr Ten Percent" and spent 11 years in jail on charges ranging from corruption to murder, although his supporters point out that he has never convicted on those charges.

Swiss authorities in August 2008 shelved a long-running probe into alleged money laundering against Zardari and his late wife, former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007, and Zardari were suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder about 12 million dollars in alleged bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in Pakistan in the 1990s.

The couple were formally sentenced by decree on the charges in Geneva in 2003 after an investigation, but the ruling was overturned on appeal.

Pakistan's supreme court last December ordered hundreds of old cases to be reopened after scrapping a controversial 2007 amnesty, which had protected Zardari and other politicians from possible court proceedings.

The court demands the return of millions of dollars plundered by leaders and bureaucrats, as well as action against former attorney general Malik Qayyum and an increase in the number of anti-graft courts to speedily resolve cases.

Pakistan is ranked the world's 40th most corrupt country by global watchdog Transparency International and many governments have fallen as a result of military intervention over accusations of graft.

Then military ruler Pervez Musharraf passed the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 under pressure to hold elections and end eight years of military rule.

Zardari's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) went on to win elections in 2008 after his wife's assassination, returning Pakistan to civilian rule.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had grilled NAB chairman Naveed Ahsan over efforts to recover 60 million dollars believed to have been stashed in foreign bank accounts by Zardari and others.

"You should implement the judgement on the NRO today and those who do not implement it should be sent to jail," he said.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved

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ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has asked Swiss authorities to reopen a money laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari under court pressure, an anti-corruption watchdog said Wednesday.
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 10:14 AM
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