Pak urges Swiss court to prosecute Zardari

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Islamabad, Feb 21: Pakistan has urged a Swiss court to prosecute Pakistan People's Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for stashing kickbacks to the tune of 55 million dollars in his Swiss bank accounts.

The PPP of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, wife of Mr Zardari, emerged as the single largest party in Monday's general elections in Pakistan. The party is in power sharing talks with PML-N of another former premier Nawaz Sharif, ousted by President Pervez Musharraf in a coup in October 1999. Swiss judicial authorities have been investigating charges of corruption against Mr Zardari for the last ten years. He is accused of hiding kickbacks received from Swiss cargo inspection companies and in bank accounts in the Alpine country.

''His name appears on each page as the beneficial owner of offshore companies. Some 60 million Swiss francs have been frozen (in Geneva accounts),'' Dominique Henchoz, the lawyer representing Pakistan, was quoted by The News as telling the three-judge bench.

''The facts which Mr Zardari stands accused of, taking commissions paid into accounts, are duly documented. It is urgent to act. The statute of limitations on some of the charges expires in July 2009,'' senior counsel for Pakistan, which is a civil party to the case, Jacques Python said.

Swiss lawyers representing the state said a decision was expected in ''a few weeks''.

They said the prosecution should be proceeded with even in the face of a general amnesty signed by President Musharraf (the National Reconciliation Ordinance).

If convicted, the PPP leader faces a five-year prison term.

However, counsel for Mr Zardari claimed that the charges should be dropped as the amnesty covered accusations pending in Switzerland and Britain.


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