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Updated: March 31, 2010 23:31 IST

Swiss asked to re-open Zardari cases

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A traffic police officer drives past a giant portrait of Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari on display on a fence near the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Wednesday. Photo: AP.
A traffic police officer drives past a giant portrait of Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari on display on a fence near the Supreme Court in Islamabad on Wednesday. Photo: AP.

The Pakistani government has asked Switzerland to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari related to the alleged stashing of $60 million in Swiss banks, the country's anti-corruption agency told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Authorities had written letters to Swiss Attorney-General and other officials to reopen the corruption cases that were closed under a controversial graft amnesty issued by ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf, National Accountability Bureau Chairman Naveed Ahsan's lawyer Abid Zubairi informed a seven-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Mr. Zubairi said the international mutual legal assistance that was granted to Switzerland in 1997 and subsequently withdrawn would be restored to facilitate the reopening of cases.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has taken steps to reopen 152 cases in which Mr. Zardari is named as an accused and the Foreign Ministry has been asked to cooperate in reopening the cases in Switzerland, said Mr. Zubairi.

The apex court had on Tuesday threatened to imprison the NAB Chairman after the government failed to meet a 24-hour deadline to reopen hundreds of graft cases, including those against Mr. Zardari and his close aides.

The Chief Justice had also brushed aside Mr. Ahsan's contention that Mr. Zardari enjoyed immunity from prosecution by virtue of being President and indicated that this issue was yet to be decided by the apex court.

The NAB also told the apex court during proceedings that it was awaiting permission from the Law Ministry to take action against the former Attorney-General Malik Qayyum, on whose request cases in Swiss court against Mr. Zardari were closed.

The Chief Justice asked Attorney-General Anwar Mansoor if the government had fully implemented the apex court's verdict striking down the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), the graft amnesty issued by the former President, Musharraf, and Mr. Mansoor replied in the positive.

According to a report submitted by NAB to the apex court, authorities had taken steps to reopen 16 cases in the Supreme Court and 158 in High Courts that were closed under the NRO.

Summons had also been issued to the accused in these cases, the report said. Earlier, official sources said the government has started implementing the verdict of the Supreme Court striking down the NRO following the court's ultimatum.

A spokesman for NAB said the Supreme Court's “verdict is being put into action as it is” and that all steps have been taken in “complete accordance with the verdict.”

In another related development, the Supreme Court ordered the reopening of a case against Aamir Lodhi, a defence contractor and co-accused in an arms kickbacks case who had benefited from the NRO.

Submarine deal

Lodhi, brother of former ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, was linked to kickbacks allegedly paid for sealing a deal for French-made Agosta submarines.

The probe into the submarine deal had led to removal of naval chief Admiral Mansoor-ul-Haq.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the re-arrest of Federal Investigation Agency Additional Director-General Ahmed Riaz Sheikh to serve his earlier sentence that was waived under the NRO.

The court also ordered the confiscation of all his assets.

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