December 27, 2007

Democracy Can't Be Perfect for the Bhutto's

French, Polish, Spanish, and Swiss documents have fueled the charges of corruption against Bhutto and her husband. Bhutto and her husband faced a number of legal proceedings, including a charge of laundering money through Swiss banks. Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges. Zardari, released from jail in 2004, has suggested that his time in prison involved torture; human rights groups have supported his claim that his rights were violated.

A 1998 New York Times investigative report indicates 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 $10M 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.

Bhutto maintained that the charges leveled against her and her husband were purely political. "Most of those documents are fabricated," she said, "and the stories that have been spun around them are absolutely wrong." An Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) report supports Bhutto's claim. It presents information suggesting that Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as a result of a witch hunt approved by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report says Khan illegally paid legal advisers 28 million Rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990-92.

The assets held by Bhutto and her husband have been scrutinized. 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.

Bhutto and her husband until recently continued to face wide-ranging charges of official corruption in connection with hundreds of millions of dollars of "commissions" on government contracts and tenders. But because of a power-sharing deal brokered in October 2007 between Bhutto and Musharraf, she and her husband had been granted amnesty. If it stands, this development could trigger a number of Swiss banks to "unlock" accounts that were frozen in the late 1990s. The executive order could in principle be challenged by the judiciary, although the judiciary's future was uncertain due to the same recent developments.


Switzerland

On 23 July 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 recently 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 Islamabad.
On
6 August 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 Monday, October 29, but it was unclear whether there would be any further legal action against her in Switzerland.


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.


Western Asia

In the largest single payment investigators have discovered, a gold bullion dealer in the 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 Yaqub, 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.
By Wikipedia

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