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Do you Know Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari? Seteembar 21, 2008

Posted by spiritualphilantropy in Commentary & Reports, News in English.
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Mr. President’s parents owned an estate in Normandy, France, worth U.S. $2.5 million. At the time of their marriage, they owned modest assets in Karachi. But it does not matter, really, since it can’t be proved. Love live the lawyers, of course.

In 1990, Zardari was arrested on charges of blackmail, based on allegations that he attached a bomb to a Pakistani businessman, Murtaza Bukhari, and forced him to withdraw money from his bank account. However, the charges were dropped when he was released from prison in 1993 when his wife’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) took power and forced the charges out.

He was kept in custody from 1997 to 2004 on charges ranging from corruption to murder. He was granted bail and released in November 2004 when a judge released Zardari under great pressure. However, he was re-arrested on 21 December 2004 after his failure to attend a hearing in a murder trial in Karachi.

Corruption

Zardari and Benazir Bhutto denied corruption allegations; however, in August 2004, Zardari finally admitted owning a £4.35m estate in Surrey, England (including a 20-room mansion and two farms on 365 acres, or 1.5 km², of land), which the Pakistani authorities allege was bought with the proceeds of corruption. Legal proceedings brought by the then Government of Pakistan against Zardari to recover the sale proceeds of the property are continuing before the High Court of Justice of England and Wales.In October 2006, the court dismissed Zardari’s application to halt the proceedings on the basis that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. As of late 2007, Zardari is seeking permission to appeal that decision.

French, Polish, Spanish, and Swiss documents have fuelled the charges of corruption against Bhutto and her husband. They faced a number of legal proceedings, including a charge of laundering money through Swiss banks. Though never convicted, her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges.

A 1998 New York Times investigative report claims that Pakistani investigators have documents that uncover a network of bank accounts, all linked to the family’s lawyer in Switzerland, with Asif Zardari as the principal shareholder. According to the article, documents released by the French authorities indicated that Zardari offered exclusive rights to Dassault, a French aircraft manufacturer, to replace the air force’s fighter jets in exchange for a 5% commission to be paid to a Swiss corporation controlled by Zardari. The article also said a Dubai company received an exclusive license to import gold into Pakistan for which Asif Zardari received payments of more than $10 million into his Dubai-based Citibank accounts. The owner of the company denied that he had made payments to Zardari and claims the documents were forged.

The prosecutors have alleged that their Swiss bank accounts contain £740 million. Zardari also bought a neo-Tudor mansion and estate worth over £4 million in Surrey, England, UK. The Pakistani investigations have tied other overseas properties to Zardari’s family. These include a $2.5 million manor in Normandy owned by Zardari’s parents, who had modest assets at the time of his marriage. Bhutto denied holding substantive overseas assets.

Switzerland

On July 23, 1998, the Swiss Government handed over documents to the government of Pakistan which relate to corruption allegations against Benazir Bhutto and her husband. The documents included a formal charge of money laundering by Swiss authorities against Zardari. The Pakistani government had been conducting a wide-ranging inquiry to account for more than $13.7 million frozen by Swiss authorities in 1997 that was allegedly stashed in banks by Bhutto and her husband. The Pakistani government filed criminal charges against Bhutto in an effort to track down an estimated $1.5 billion she and her husband are alleged to have received in a variety of criminal enterprises. The documents suggest that the money Zardari was alleged to have laundered was accessible to Benazir Bhutto and had been used to buy a diamond necklace for over $175,000. The PPP has responded by flatly denying the charges, suggesting that Swiss authorities have been misled by false evidence provided by the Government of Pakistan.

On August 6, 2003, Swiss magistrates found 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 $11 million to the Pakistani government. The six-year trial concluded that Bhutto and Zardari deposited in Swiss accounts $10 million given to them by a Swiss company in exchange for a contract in Pakistan. The couple said they would appeal. The Pakistani investigators say Zardari opened a Citibank account in Geneva in 1995 through which they say he passed some $40 million of the $100 million he received in payoffs from foreign companies doing business in Pakistan. In October 2007, Daniel Zappelli, chief prosecutor of the canton of Geneva, said he received the conclusions of a money laundering investigation against former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on October 29, but it was unclear whether there would be any further legal action against her in Switzerland.

A Swiss investigating magistrate has amassed enough evidence, including the purchase of a diamond necklace, to indict Pakistan’s former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto and husband on money-laundering charges tied to contracts with two Geneva-based companies. The magistrate, Daniel Devaud, decided not to bring the charges against Ms. Bhutto in Switzerland, but rather to ask Pakistani authorities to indict her. The Geneva magistrate has been conducting a wide-ranging inquiry seeking to account for more than $13.7 million frozen by Swiss authorities in 2006.
The money was allegedly stashed in Swiss banks. The public proceedings were required to be dropped against Bhutto due to her death; however, the proceedings are still continuing against Zardari as of late December 2007.

Poland

The Polish Government has given Pakistan 500 pages of documentation relating to corruption allegations against Benazir Bhutto and her husband. These charges are in regard to the purchase of 8,000 tractors in a 1997 deal. According to Pakistani officials, the Polish papers contain details of illegal commissions paid by the tractor company in return for agreeing to their contract. It was alleged that the arrangement “skimmed” Rs 103 mn rupees ($2 million) in kickbacks. “The documentary evidence received from Poland confirms the scheme of kickbacks laid out by Asif Zardari and Benazir Bhutto in the name of (the) launching of Awami tractor scheme”, APP said. Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari allegedly received a 7.15% commission on the purchase through their front men, Jens Schlegelmilch and Didier Plantin of Dargal S.A., who received about $1.969 million for supplying 5,900 Ursus tractors.

France

Potentially the most lucrative deal alleged in the documents involved the effort by Dassault Aviation, a French military contractor. French authorities indicated in 1998 that Bhutto’s husband, Zardari, offered exclusive rights to Dassault to replace the air force’s fighter jets in exchange for a five percent commission to be paid to a corporation in Switzerland controlled by Zardari.

At the time, French corruption laws forbade bribery of French officials but permitted payoffs to foreign officials, and even made the payoffs tax-deductible in France. However, France changed this law in 2000.

Helicopter scandal

In 1998-1999, an enquiry was conducted by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament to investigate the matter regarding the purchase of the helicopter. The case involves defrauding substantive sum of $2.168 million and $1.1 million public money. The record shows that the case was not pursued properly nor diligently. FIR No 1 of 1998 was registered with Federal Investigation Agency State Bank Circle Rawalpindi on the complaint of Cabinet Division. Thorough investigation was conducted by the committee headed by Chaudhry Muhammad Barjees Tahir and two other members, namely Faridullah Jamali and Jamshaid Ali Shah. During this investigation the committee Chairman Barjees Tahir summoned both the former President Farooq Leghari and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto along with others, and they were investigated.

Western Asia

In the largest single payment investigators have uncovered, a gold bullion dealer in Western Asia was alleged to have deposited at least $10 million into one of Zardari’s accounts after the Bhutto government gave him a monopoly on gold imports that sustained Pakistan’s jewellery industry. The money was allegedly deposited into Zardari’s Citibank account in Dubai. Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast, stretching from Karachi to the border with Iran, has long been a gold smugglers’ haven. Until the beginning of Bhutto’s second term, the trade, running into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, was unregulated, with slivers of gold called biscuits, and larger weights in bullion, carried on planes and boats that travel between the Persian Gulf and the largely unguarded Pakistani coast.

Shortly after Bhutto returned as Prime Minister in 1993, a Pakistani bullion trader in Dubai, Abdul Razzak Yaqoob, proposed a deal: in return for the exclusive right to import gold, Razzak would help the government regularize the trade. In November 1994, Pakistan’s Commerce Ministry wrote to Razzak informing him that he had been granted a license that made him, for at least the next two years, Pakistan’s sole authorized gold importer. In an interview in his office in Dubai, Razzak acknowledged that he had used the license to import more than $500 million in gold into Pakistan, and that he had travelled to Islamabad several times to meet with Bhutto and Zardari. But he denied that there had been any corruption or secret deals. “I have not paid a single cent to Zardari,” he said. Razzak claims that someone in Pakistan who wished to destroy his reputation had contrived to have his company wrongly identified as the depositor. “Somebody in the bank has cooperated with my enemies to make false documents,” he said.

Fatima Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto’s niece, and others have publicly accused Bhutto of complicity in the killing of her brother Murtaza Bhutto in 1996 by uniformed police officers while she was Prime Minister.

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