Swiss government not to reopen graft cases against Zardari

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 10, 2013 11:10 hrs

Islamabad, Feb 10 (IANS) Authorities in Switzerland have informed Pakistan that they cannot reopen on legal grounds the corruption cases amounting to $60 million against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, media reports said Sunday.

In response to a letter written by Islamabad in November 2012, asking the Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases following an order by the Supreme Court, officials in Switzerland expressed their inability to do so as Zardari, as head of state, enjoyed immunity against all criminal charges under international laws.

Federal Law Minister Farooq H. Naek has confirmed receipt of a letter from the Swiss authorities, Geo News reported.

The Dawn said the Swiss attorney general, in reply to the letter sent by Pakistan, told the law ministry that the case could not be reopened because it had become "time-barred" under Swiss laws.

The Daily Times said Swiss legal experts had opined that due to the expiration of a statute of limitation on the charges in Switzerland and Zardari's presidential immunity, the chances of a new prosecution were slim, at least while Zardari remained in office.

The letter sent to the Swiss attorney general through the Pakistani Foreign Office and the Pakistani embassy in Switzerland claimed immunity for the president under the constitution of Pakistan as well as international laws.

Zardari and his wife, late former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, were suspected of using Swiss accounts to launder bribes paid by companies seeking customs inspection contracts in the 1990s.

Zardari and Bhutto had been granted amnesty under the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in 2007 by then president Pervez Musharraf.

The NRO that granted immunity to politicians and bureaucrats in corruption cases was struck down by the Supreme Court as void in 2009.

A standoff between the government and the Supreme Court over writing the letter cost then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani his job last year.

Gilani had refused to write, arguing that Zardari enjoys immunity under the constitution.

The judiciary-executive confrontation came to an end when Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, in September last year, told the apex court that the government was ready to write the letter.

More from Sify: