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NRO not to cover foreign cases: Azim

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ISLAMABAD, Oct 31: Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Tariq Azim said on Wednesday that the National Reconciliation Ordinance would not apply to cases pending against Benazir Bhutto in foreign courts and if she was charged the government would not defend her.

The government would provide necessary evidence and witnesses if sought by any foreign court, he told a news conference at the PML House here.

He referred to legal proceedings in Switzerland and Spain and said Swiss investigating magistrate Vincent Fournier had completed investigation into money-laundering charges against Ms Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari.

The magistrate, while giving the opinion that the case against the accused was now ready for trial, had sent a report to the Swiss attorney general to take a decision, Mr Tariq said.

He said that Ms Bhutto had challenged the status of the Pakistan government as an affected party on Aug 17, 2006, but the Swiss investigating magistrate had rejected the request and reconfirmed that the government was an affected party.

He said the Swiss magistrate had observed that Asif Ali Zardari never showed up in Geneva and that he had been adopting delaying tactics which were unacceptable.

The minister said that the magistrate had turned down a request made by Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari to call former minister of state for finance Shahabuddin, former finance secretary Talat, former interior minister Naseerullah Babar and PPP leaders Raza Rabbani, Rana Rahim and Abu Bakar to give evidence as witnesses in the case.

He said Ms Bhutto had stated that lawyers engaged by her were not being paid and they were ‘voluntarily’ pursuing her cases. However, the minister said, the bills of all lawyers were being paid from Varley Finance Limited, a Luxembourg-based company.

Mr Azim said that in the money- laundering case, Ms Bhutto could face a sentence of 18 months. He alleged that Ms Bhutto had earned $72 million through kickbacks in the SGS and Cotecna cases. He said that Pakistan’s support on mutual assistance basis would continue.

Mr Azim said the case in Spain relating to UN oil for food programme and involving two companies owned by the Bhutto family, had been investigated by the Spanish government which suspected the companies of being involved in the money-laundering business.

The minister said the companies, Petrolin FZC and Tempo Global Gain FZC, were based in Sharjah and they had bank accounts in Spain.

He said large amounts of money were exchanged between the two companies and then transferred to Dubai.

The minister said that these cases had not been launched by the Pakistan government, but initiated by the Spanish government which later informed the government about it.

He said that besides Abdur Rehman Feroz Malik (Rehman Malik) and Sayed Ali Hassan Jaffery, the family of Ms Bhutto, including her children Bilawal, Asifa and Bakhtawar, were shareholders in the two companies.Mr Azim said that the UN-sponsored investigation had revealed that the accused had paid two million dollars to Saddam Hussain to get a contract under the oil for food programme.—APP


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