Friday, August 22, 2008
Zardari Corruption Probe Alive in Switzerland
While the news of President Musharraf's resignation and Asif Zardari's nomination for president occupy the big headlines, the renewed reports of the continuing Swiss probe into corruption allegations against Zardari are also vying for attention in the same week.
Swiss Judge Daniel Devaud has "confirmed to NEWSWEEK that the prosecutor's office was still investigating "aggravated" money-laundering offenses. Likewise, Jacques Python, a Geneva lawyer hired by Pakistan to work with Swiss authorities on the corruption case, said he had every reason to believe that the Geneva prosecutor's investigation was still open. And Alec Reymond, a lawyer who had represented Bhutto in connection with the Swiss investigation, also says the case is still open."
In 1997, after Zardari had been imprisoned on suspicion of corruption, Judge Devaud found that Bhutto herself had purchased a necklace worth 117,000 British pounds from a London jeweler—using cash and a bank transfer from the account of Bomer Finance, a British Virgin Islands company, which the magistrate said was jointly controlled by Bhutto and Zardari. (Her supporters claimed this allegation was based on trumped-up evidence supplied by her political enemies. Bhutto herself reportedly claimed her husband had bought the necklace but never told her about it). In 2003, Bhutto was convicted of money laundering in Switzerland and filed an appeal of her conviction by Swiss Court.
According to Newsweek's Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff, Judge Devaud's investigations in 2003 resulted in a series of court orders against Bhutto, Zardari and one of their Swiss lawyers, Jens Schlegelmilch. The orders, akin to misdemeanor guilty findings by a U.S. justice of the peace, were issued by the Swiss judge, an investigating magistrate in Geneva who has handled many high-profile investigations into the alleged laundering of corrupt payments through Switzerland by foreign politicians. The full text of Devaud's orders can be read at a NAB site here.
As to the outcome of the Swiss prosecution, some legal experts believe that Swiss prosecutors have three possible courses of action: close the case entirely, prosecute it by bringing it into a superior court or arrange the Swiss version of a plea bargain, in which money seized by Swiss authorities during the investigation probably would be confiscated or handed over to charity, but charges would be settled without any prison sentences.
In June 2008, a senior PPP leader and president of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association, Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, who was interior minister in Benazir Bhutto's first government, told James Traub of the New York Times that most of the corruption and criminal cases against PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari which were dropped recently in Pakistan were justified, and that the PPP was a feudal political party led by a figure (Zardari) accused of corruption and violence. After a moment's reflection, Ahsan further added, “The type of expenses that she had and he has are not from sources of income that can be lawfully explained and accounted for.”
The charges of corruption will likely haunt Zardari for the rest of his life. The way for him to leave a better legacy is by renouncing the amnesty he received from President Musharraf and by offering to go through a fair trial to clear his name.
Bhutto Convicted of Money Laundering by Swiss Court
House of Graft by New York Times
Can the West Help End Corruption in Developing Nations? on Haq's Musings
Bhutto's New York Apartment , A Luxurious East Side Penthouse
Bhutto-Zardari Front Company in Virgin Island
Asif Zardari wikipedia entry
Financial Times on Zardari's mental health
Is Zardari Guilty? on PakAlumni Worldwide