By Masood Haider
NEW YORK, Aug 28: The Swiss government has released millions of dollars in assets belonging to Pakistan People’s Party leader Asif Ali Zardari, the New York Times reported on Thursday quoting the Swiss authorities.
Mr Zardari’s accounts were frozen in 1997 at the request of the Nawaz Sharif government which was investigating allegations that Mr Zardari had received kickbacks when his wife headed the government.
The assets were released after the attorney general notified the Swiss government that he was no longer investigating Mr Zardari.
The attorney general wrote that neither Mr Zardari nor Ms Benazir Bhutto had done anything illegal and that the charges were politically motivated, the Swiss Prosecutor General, Mr Daniel Zappelli, told the NYT in an interview.As a result, the Swiss dropped a money-laundering case against Mr Zardari.
“For money laundering to be proven, you have to show it was the product of a crime, but we don’t have any evidence for a crime committed in Pakistan,” Mr Zappelli said.
The value of the assets is about $60 million, said a Swiss official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the figure had not been disclosed publicly.
The Swiss action came as a shock to Daniel Devaud, the judge in Geneva who originally investigated the charges.
He said it should not be interpreted as a sign of Mr Zardari’s innocence, the newspaper said.
“It would be very difficult to say that there is nothing in the files that shows there was possibly corruption going on after what I have seen in there,” Mr Devaud said in a telephone interview.
“After I heard what the general prosecutor said, I have the feeling we are talking about two different cases.”
Mr Zardari and Ms Bhutto were suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder millions of dollars, allegedly bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in Pakistan in the 1990s.
Ms Bhutto and Mr Zardari always denied the allegations, saying they were politically motivated.
Source: Daily Dawn, 29/8/2008