With disgust

Published October 14, 2007

THE New York Times, August 6, 2003: ‘Bhutto Sentenced in Switzerland — A Swiss magistrate has found former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband guilty of money laundering.

They were given six-month suspended jail terms, fined $50,000 each and were ordered to pay US$11m to the Pakistani government. The six-year-long case alleged that Ms Bhutto, who lives in exile in London and Dubai, and her husband, Asif Zardari, deposited in Swiss accounts $0m given them by a Swiss company in exchange for a contract in Pakistan. The couple said they would appeal.’

Swissinfo (swissinfo.org/eng), Oct 9, 2007: ‘Amnesty spells trouble for Swiss Bhutto case — ... Daniel Zappelli, the general prosecutor of Geneva, is facing a quandary. Should the politician and her husband stand trial now that Bhutto has been granted an amnesty by her own country?...The couple was first convicted of simple money laundering in 2003 by a Geneva investigating judge who handed down a six-month suspended sentence.

The Bhuttos appealed against the magistrate’s decision but were later accused of more serious money laundering offences… Dominique Henchoz, the lawyer representing the Pakistani government in Geneva, said it was still not clear whether legal action would be stopped. “We’ll have to wait to examine the exact wording used in the decree,” he added. “Because surely to speak of an amnesty implies that there has been an act of corruption.”...The case opened in 1998...The three investigating judges in Geneva who have dealt with the file for a decade found that Bhutto and her husband received $2m (SFr14.25m) in Swiss bank accounts belonging to companies registered in the Virgin Islands and Panama…Vincent Fournier, one of the three judges, has confirmed his office is about to pass on the case to the prosecutor. “It is surprising to note that for 10 years Pakistan has constantly pushed us to see that justice be done. And now, in the light of a change of political allegiance, Madame Bhutto benefits from an amnesty.”’

Crystal clear, is it not? The couple stand convicted of corruption.

Benazir Bhutto was convicted for simple money laundering in 2003. She appealed against that sentence and under a quirk of Swiss law the matter was automatically reopened. She is now being prosecuted for aggravated money laundering, which is a far more serious offence and carries a longer jail sentence. The matter has dragged on for years, partly due to her delaying tactics, but mostly due to the National Accountability Bureau’s incompetence and failure to raise the matter forcefully for reasons best known to it — or perhaps under orders from the ‘high-ups’.

It must be remembered that she has been prosecuted for money laundering which is a criminal offence under the laws of Switzerland, but which, at the relevant time, was not a crime in Pakistan. In Pakistan she was in fact prosecuted for corruption, while in Switzerland she was prosecuted for money laundering which offence, it is important to note, took place exclusively in Switzerland.

Since the prosecuting authorities are Swiss it is legally completely possible that her prosecution can continue in Switzerland. However, viewing the matter in terms of practical politics, i.e. expediency, chances are that the government of Pakistan will try to prevail upon the Swiss authorities to drop the proceedings.

The Swiss authorities may either reject this manoeuvre on the part of the government as being patently a politically motivated ploy or alternatively decide that since the GoP, which has been illegally deprived of millions of dollars, has no desire to reclaim this money for the benefit of the poor deprived people of Pakistan there is no particular reason why they should proceed with the prosecution.

Let us look at it this way — if someone has been mugged in the street and deprived of his money and decides to bestow it upon the robber as largesse, rewarding the mugger, that is his option. The only difference in this case is that the money did not belong to President General Pervez Musharraf, nor did he consult the people of Pakistan before deciding to bestow it upon Benazir.

If reports be true, the money laundering does not stop in Switzerland nor did it cease post Oct 12, 1999. According to reports in our press and a story posted on the website of Pakistan Times (www.pakistantimes.com), NAB has disclosed last week that it has made an International Mutual Legal Assistance request to the Spanish government for information on a trail of money leading to Spain through Swiss banks starting in the year 2000-1 when, reportedly, Benazir, henchman Rehman Malik (former additional director of the FIA during her prime ministership, a fugitive from Pakistan where he is wanted for corruption but covered by this monstrosity of an amnesty) and relative Hassan Ali Jafferi registered two companies, Petroline and Tempo Global Gains, both Free Zone (offshore) companies, in Sharjah.In 2001, Petroline opened two bank accounts in a Spanish bank, and Tempo did the same in 2002. Copious amounts of money were transferred into these accounts from Switzerland and the UAE. Reportedly, the High Court of Valencia has appointed an examining magistrate to investigate the affairs of the shareholders in the two companies — Bhutto, Rehman and Jafferi — and the competent Spanish authorities have frozen the two companies, their bank accounts and a villa in Marbella and entrusted prosecution to the office of the public prosecutor of Valencia.

If there be truth in all this, one must wonder what the Swiss judicial authorities think of it all in light of the criminal amnesty, a matter now in our Supreme Court and sub judice.

The rantings and ravings of the few PPP diehards who insist that the amnesty is the best thing to have happened to Pakistan since its creation are centred on the excuse that many, or all, of the corruption cases filed in our courts against Benazir and her husband were not only ‘politically motivated’ but that due to their snow-white innocence nothing could be proven against them. Again, one must ask why there was never a guilty or innocent verdict handed down? Fine, even if we admit that the cases filed in Pakistan could be tainted politically, such is not the case in Switzerland, or indeed in Spain. One can hardly accuse the Swiss and Spanish governments of political victimisation.

One positive — nay, excellent — factor to emerge from the promulgation by a man unable to relinquish power of the disgusting National Reconciliation Ordinance, which has had the opposite effect to reconciliation as far as the people are concerned, is the reaction of the literate and illiterate 170 millions of Pakistan.

They know they have been duped, that they do not know the truth, and have no fear in saying so in no uncertain terms. This ordinance, promulgated by a man who preaches enlightened moderation, stands equally ignominious and abominable (for different reasons) as the Hudood Ordinances of the reviled President General Ziaul Haq.




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