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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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