Graft cases against Zardari cannot be opened in Switzerland?
Last Updated: Sunday, April 11, 2010, 00:00
Islamabad: Anti-corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari cannot be reopened in courts in Switzerland as he enjoys "absolute immunity" under international law, the top Swiss legal official said on Saturday.

Swiss Attorney General Daniel Zappelli made the remarks in an interview with a Pakistani news channel tonight.

Asked if a closed case can be reopened if the government of a country makes a request as in the case of President, the Swiss official said this is a "big problem" because the head of state, the prime minister and foreign minister enjoy "absolute immunity" in this regard under international law.

In response to a question about the reopening of cases on the basis of a request the National Accountability Bureau, Pakistan's anti-corruption agency, Zappelli said, "if an application to reopen the cases in Swiss courts was submitted through Pakistan's embassy, it would be returned" since the head of a state enjoys absolute immunity.

The Supreme Court has been pushing the government led by Zardari's Pakistan People's Party to reopen cases in Swiss courts in which the President was accused of stashing away millions of dollars received as kickbacks in Swiss banks.

The apex court issued the order to reopen cases after striking down the National reconciliation Ordinance, a graft amnesty that benefited Zardari and thousands of others.

Zardari's aides have maintained that he enjoys immunity from prosecution by virtue of being President.

Zappelli said he had received a three- page fax from Pakistan and he believed this was an "incomplete application" for reopening the cases.

"But it is difficult to say because practically, documents like these are exchanged between governments through embassies and carry an official seal," he said.

The fax, based on the decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, was the only document he had received from Pakistani authorities, he said.

The fax mentioned the name of the National Accountability Bureau.

Zappelli said he would prefer to respond to a letter from any official agency or the government of Pakistan that was dispatched with the relevant annexures.

Without annexures, it would be difficult to respond, he said.

Responding to another question, Zappelli said, "These cases should be tried in the Lahore High Court if the Supreme Court of Pakistan declares non-availability of immunity to the President.

"If money laundering cases could not be proved in the courts of Pakistan, how could we do it?" he asked. Zappelli said he could not confirm whether USD 60 million was laundered through Swiss banks.If these were cases of corruption or kickbacks, where was the person who had given that money as a bribe, he asked.

He further said that if a Pakistani citizen commits a crime, it should first be proven in a Pakistani court.

Pakistan will have to provide evidence that a crime has indeed been committed, he added. Giving details about the closure of the cases against Zardari in Swiss courts, Zappelli said, "We received an application by the government of Pakistan through its embassy to close cases in Swiss courts on June 4, 2008."


First Published: Sunday, April 11, 2010, 00:00

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