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Swiss govt calls Zardari case time-barred


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President Asif Ali Zardari.—File Photo.
President Asif Ali Zardari.—File Photo.

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N government opened on Tuesday a letter received from the Swiss government which declared President Asif Ali Zardari a ‘clean’ man in a $60 million money-laundering case closed by a Swiss court after lapse of a specific period.

In February this year, the Swiss government told the PPP-led government about the letter and conveyed its contents, but it was officially opened on Tuesday by Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

Mr Hamid told a TV channel that he had read the letter and would soon make it public.

The minister did not say anything about the PML-N government’s future line of action on the case, which is being tried by local courts also, and said: “Pakistan’s embassy in Switzerland has been asked to send some relevant documents about the case.”

But the outgoing PPP government believed that there was no case pending against Mr Zardari in any court in the country.

Now all eyes are on the PML-N to see what strategy it will chalk out about the case because it had been demanding that the ‘plundered’ wealth must be brought back to the country.

President Zardari and Benazir Bhutto were accused of purchasing Surrey Palace through ‘illegal’ money. During proceedings of the case, the Swiss authorities liquidated the property because Mr Zardari and Ms Bhutto did not own it and the money obtained through its sale was deposited in a Swiss bank, which was believed to have been drawn by the owners of the palace.

Former law minister Farooq H. Naek, on a directive of the Supreme Court, had written a letter to the Swiss government in December last year for reopening the case and the Swiss authorities replied on Feb 9.

Sources in the law ministry said that according to the letter, the case was timed-barred and after expiry of a specific period it could not be reopened by the Swiss court.

Mr Naek told Dawn that: “There is no case pending against the president in the country.”

He said three cases were being heard against Mr Zardari in the country in which he was not the main accused, but was declared one of the beneficiaries. “Ilyas Siddqui and Benazir Bhutto were the main accused. Mr Siddiqui was acquitted and after the death of Ms Bhutto the cases became infructuous,” he said.

The former law minister said when the main accused had been acquitted how the beneficiary could be tried.

But an official of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), who did not want to be named, said he believed that the cases could be reopened after Mr Zardari left the office of the president.

Interestingly, the PPP government and lawyers of Mr Zardari never pleaded before the Supreme Court that there were no cases pending against the president. Instead, they always referred to Article 248 of the constitution to claim immunity.

In reply to a question about 12 boxes containing the record of Swiss cases lying with the NAB, the official said the record was still under the NAB’s custody and it could be used if cases against Mr Zardari were reopened after the expiry of his tenure as president.

A disgruntled PPP leader said that the cases could be reopened in local courts because by writing the letter to Swiss authorities the former law minister had admitted that Mr Zardari was the main accused.

“The mistake committed by Mr Naek may create problems for Mr Zardari in future,” he said.

Comments (27) Closed

SK Jun 19, 2013 07:32am

No, he is not a clean man. He used Pakistan Governments Offices & Officials to prolong the filing of the case, and he knew that in the West, there is a time limit for filing a case. He used Pakistani High Commissioner from England to get the evidence files from Swiss Courts and have them destroyed. It also serves Swiss Government, because Switzerland gets to keep unclaimed looted bounty. Pakistan Judiciary should build a case against Zardari and demand the return of Pakistan's wealth he has taken abroad.

Qamar Jun 19, 2013 07:49am

The crooks won, people of Pakistan have lost.

Lalajeee Jun 19, 2013 08:04am

He MUST be tried in Pakistan after his tenure expires. He must be placed on exit control list two weeks before he is to step down. This is a must. We must not let him go free unless proven innocent by the courts in Pakistan

Amjad Wyne Jun 19, 2013 08:28am

A Western government will never allow one of its own citizens to walk away freely after it had committed a financial crime - they will get into the graves to collect the stolen money. So why this favor to a Pakistani criminal?

Sultan Alvi Jun 19, 2013 08:31am

Well played Mr. Zardari. By playing the innings as you did, you were able to save $60 million, which is a lot of money to last you for the rest of your life.

NK Ali Jun 19, 2013 10:25am

What are the options left? None whatsoever. The corrupt will continue to loot, pillage, plunder, and laugh at the common citizens faces. The least he can do is remove the encroachments/wall in and around Clifton, Blocks 2 and 3 for ease of way and convenience to the citizens. If the land has been purchased then on what basis, because these roads and service lanes are public interest amenities. Salams

syed Yousaf Jun 19, 2013 10:36am

Day of Judgemet is there. Zardari has to explain

syed Yousaf Jun 19, 2013 10:36am

Time barred doesnt mean Zardari is clean

Farrukh Jun 19, 2013 10:49am

The joke of the year

Hina Jun 19, 2013 10:54am

Time pass-PPP made this possible at the cost of its PMs.

Abdullah Hussain Jun 19, 2013 11:19am

This cannot be accepted. In fact the Swiss authority is encouraging peoples to deposit ill gotten money with assurance that the money & the depositor will be protected. As money laundering is considered a crime so shall be the case with illegal money deposit in Swiss bank. The authority should be taken to an appropriate court & Pakistan money returned

Alfarooq Kemal Jun 19, 2013 11:41am

Once again history repeated!! that the motivated criminals, looters and plunderer of billion of dollars always go clean in the end with State Money

Guest63 Jun 19, 2013 12:31pm

The disgruntled PPP leader (ref your last few lines ) is not furious without reasons . Its the tacit admission of the Government of the time , that by writing a letter to the Swiss Govt , they had admitted the guilt cum implication of AAZ into the cases which were once upon a time , had already a conviction passed to both AAZ & BB . he might have been off the hook for the time being , But he is not in safe waters as such for the rest of his life . as soon as he leaves the fortress presidency , things will move few notches up and a new drama will be unfolded sooner or later

Mohammad jamil Jun 19, 2013 12:49pm

Its disgusting and sick. Money can buy every thing.There is one big and real court waiting for these peoples Where No one can buy any thing and have to pay a very heavy price. We never ever learn from others.

Shahid Khan Jun 19, 2013 01:54pm

The systems are made by these people that works for them very well. I dont think PML has guts to do any actions about it that could hurt them in future. Ballay Bally to both.

zafar Iqbal Jun 19, 2013 02:03pm

Clean man ! what !

M. Anwar Qureshi Jun 19, 2013 02:25pm

No matter the case is time barred and cannot be opened, but crux of the matter is where are USD60 million. The GOP should ask Swiss Authorities to defreeze this laundered money and return the same to Pakistan Exchequer.

Rafia Mirza Jun 19, 2013 03:40pm

Moral of the story: Commit a crime, keep it controversial for long enough & RELAX,hey you did no wrong, ask the Swiss,they declared you INNOCENT

Shahpur Jun 19, 2013 04:07pm

The letter came in February and it was opened in June. Zardari knew the content of the letter. I was looking at Zardari's above picture The Pakistani way of telling Nawaz Shariff, my name is Asif Zardari, read the letter and forward it to the CJ for further advice.

Sarfi Jun 19, 2013 05:12pm

A country which has such president; needn't worry about any enemy and hence mustn't keep huge army (50-100 enough for his security and guard of honour only). Long time ago; noble and pious used to be nation's GLAMOURs but now criteria changes...

Ahmad Jun 19, 2013 06:23pm

Shocking : Clean man on paper, but not in the eye of beholder. He is as guilty as sin. Why there was a delay in submitting the documents. I want to know. Mr. Nawaz should also come clean on this.

mba Jun 19, 2013 06:51pm

Wait, Wait until Dark! The Zardaris & Co.can wait to disappear in their dark business, most of the Pakistanis have to go through life-long darkness of poverty. Is someone there to put some light on the matter or the Kings of today do not want to hurt hard the kings of yesterday?!

Moeen H Jun 19, 2013 07:40pm

Congratulations to Supreme court for wasting public's time and money.

Syed Ahmed Jun 19, 2013 09:03pm

Zardari is all smiles. To save his skin he has politically martyrized a Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yusaf Raza Gilani of Multan, with the indirect support of country

a Jun 19, 2013 09:14pm

Zardari must be punished.

Rafia Mirza Jun 20, 2013 01:05am

@Sultan Alvi: Just HIS life?

Rafia Mirza Jun 20, 2013 01:07am

No one is going to bell this cat! He is way toooooo slippery for any one to get his hands on him