Pak quits $59 mn Swiss case against Zardari

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Islamabad, Apr 2: Pakistan government is learnt to have withdrawn the last seven cases of corruption, relating to stashing nearly 60 million dollars, against PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari. A Pakistani court quashed the last of seven corruption cases against Zardari last month, clearing the way for him to hold office, and ordered the government to withdraw all legal action against him abroad, reported The Nation. He was charged with aggravated money laundering by a Swiss court and the government had joined the case as a civil party.

Zardari's lawyer Saverio Lembo reportedly said: "Pakistan has withdrawn as a civil party, which proves it does not feel that it suffered damages. There is no proof of a crime abroad, a primary condition for money laundering ... Everything confirms that the charges against my client were political in nature." Swiss lawyers said the lack of a criminal prosecution against Zardari in Pakistan and the government's withdrawal as a civil party in the Swiss case had greatly weakened the chances of convicting Zardari under Swiss law.

Geneva judicial authorities have spent more than a decade investigating allegations that Benazir and Zardari took kickbacks from Swiss cargo inspection companies and stashed the proceeds in Swiss bank accounts. The couple always denied the charges.

Zardari and her slain wife Benazir were convicted by a Geneva court in 2003 of laundering 13 million dollars linked to the kickbacks. But, that verdict was thrown out on appeal, sparking a wider probe by an investigating judge who indicted all three on charges of aggravated money laundering.

The case is now in the hands of Geneva's chief prosecutor Daniel Zappelli, who can close it or bring it to trial. Some 60 million Swiss francs remain frozen in Swiss accounts in connection with the case.


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