“Most corrupt in the world is Asif Ali Zardari, the President of Pakistan and the Supreme Commander of Pakistan Forces,” alleges The Global Corruption Report (GCR), an international document.
The report has cited detailed evidence accusing President Zardari and other members of the Bhutto family of gross corruption.
The internationally-famed ruling party head didn’t have over Rs 1 billion assets at the time of marrying Ms Benazir Bhutto. He used to run Bambino Cinema along with his father Mr. Hakim Ali Zardari, the report notes.
In addition to the details of corruption, pending cases were also highlighted by the GCR. Key documents copied from the files of a relevant lawyer in Switzerland revealed that significant commissions were paid by contractors in a series of deals between Shell offshore companies and foreign corporations contracted by the government of Pakistan, the report said, adding that in all cases, beneficiaries were Bhutto-Zardari family members; usually Asif Ali Zardari, commonly known as Mr. 10 per cent during his wife’s first term and Mr. 40 per cent after the second.
The report gives further details of the Bhutto-Zardari graft as: In the late 1997, the then Pakistan attorney general promptly sent an assistant request to officials in Switzerland, Britain and the United States, three of the many countries identified as having some connection with these commission contracts. Only Switzerland provided swift and effective responses. The then Swiss attorney general, Carla Del Ponte, instructed the federal police in Berne to cooperate with the Pakistani authorities, and Judge Danie Davaud was appointed in Geneva to take charge of the judicial aspects of the investigation.
There were several strands to the initial evidence, implicating different companies in public contracts with Pakistan, each with a subject of offshore companies controlled by Jens Schlegelmilch, the Bhutto family lawyer in Geneva. One of the earliest steps taken was to identify Swiss bank accounts in the names of Bhutto family, their front companies and known associates, and to freeze any balances in them. The order resulted in the freezing of no fewer than 500 separate accounts containing excess of US$80 million, the funds that have been frozen for years.
The gap between freezing funds and transferring them to another country is formidable, as Pakistan was just starting to discover. For Switzerland to transfer the blocked funds to Pakistan required a conviction in Pakistan against Ms Bhutto, her husband and possibly others for an offence that would allow Judge Davaud to order the transfer. Alternatively, Ms Bhutto would have had to be convicted in Switzerland for an offence, giving rise to similar powers. In July 2003, after more than five years, Davaud convicted Bhutto and her husband of money laundering; sentencing them to six months’ imprisonment suspended for three years, and ordering the transfer to Pakistan of some US$12 million. Examining why it took so long to arrive at this still-not-final result sheds light on what obstacles could be encountered in similar situations. Out of the half a dozen offences disclosed by the initial documents, Davaud had deliberately selected one in which those paying the commissions were Swiss companies. This tactic enabled him to investigate and seize within Switzerland the documents covering all aspects of the offence, whether from the companies or from Bhutto’s lawyer. In this way, he did not need to rely on assistance from other countries. Corruption was not a criminal offence in Switzerland until 2001; long after the frozen accounts had been filled with cash. But money laundering was an offence. Provided that Zardari and his spouse could be prosecuted in Pakistan, anyone dealing with the corrupt proceeds could be indicted in Switzerland. Accordingly, Davaud issued indictments against five parties: Bhutto and Zardari outside Switzerland, and Schlegelmilch and the responsible executives of two Swiss companies inside his country. Backed with the indictments, the judge ordered the seizure of documents and sought to interrogate the accused as an investigating judge.
At an early date the judge ordered that Pakistan be a “civil party” to the proceedings as a victim of the alleged criminal activity. The money of commissions paid as bribes for the benefit of Bhutto and her husband and mother should have been accounted to the Republic of Pakistan, whose interests Bhutto had been bound to protect. As a civil party, the Pakistani authorities had access to the entire file of the proceedings, and could be compensated for any losses established. Davaud’s judgments on what became known as the SGS-Cotecna case disclose that during Bhutto’s first term of office, the Swiss company Cotecna was awarded a contract by Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance to take over pre-shipment inspection of goods entering the Karachi Port. A six per cent commission of contract receipts to Mariston Securities Incorporated, an offshore company formed by Schlegelmilch and beneficially owned by Bhutto’s mother. Mariston received US$1.2 million before the contract was terminated after Benazir was first ejected from the office. Schlegelmilch created, in the meanwhile, a new offshore company, Bomer Finance Inc, whose beneficial owner was Zardari though Bhutto controlling its assets. Two other offshore companies Mariston and Nassam Overseas Inc., a company beneficially owned by Bhutto’s then brother-in-law. The commission between them rose to nine per cent. The reports say that additionally Schlegelmilch himself was to receive a commission of 1.25 per cent of contract receipts. A company Hospital of the Middle East Inc. was also put up and more than a million dollars were transferred to the front company. Judge Davaud set out in his decisions the payments including date, amount, payer and payee. The bribes paid in the cases is large, but they pale into insignificance against the harm suffered by Pakistan as a direct result of these corrupt contracts, as Pakistan has estimated to have lost more than two billion dollars in tariff revenue. Jeremy Carver Clifford Chance Law Firm of Britain having solid information too spoke of the corruption by Zardari and his spouse.
As in case of Pakistan, corruption was a not then a criminal offence (before 2002), Judge Davaud had convicted Schlegelmilch with a four month term of imprisonment but he did not forfeit the proceeds from the corrupt contracts. Money laundering was then an offence like many countries of the world; however, now Switzerland has an offence in regard to corruption.
In view of such implicating evidence, one can say that the parliament of Pakistan -- the ruling party or the opposition put together -- never took corruption by the ruling elite seriously. The UN convention against corruption is very clear as the member states and businesses have become increasingly aware of the damage corruption causes the countries around the world. The dangerous combination of immunity from prosecution and unlimited personal power allows corrupt leaders to devastate their countries by systematic looting public wealth. The UN Convention against corruption could not be revoked as the corrupt parliamentarians, their fake degrees and bogus assets declarations prove enough that the entire parliament needs across-the-board accountability; however who would do this in the absence of an honest accountability bureau and an honest broker as the head of the National Accountability Bureau. The political gimmicks of Prime Minister Gilani are nothing but an attempt to cheat the entire nation and all the state organs. The weakest and the most-dishonest of all the governments, this set-up has led to a total bankruptcy which warrants across-the-board accountability. Informed sources said that the present set-up would never go for any accountability of any kind.
As Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has himself suggested that the NRO beneficiaries should voluntarily resign, the question is, if he has indirectly called upon the President and PPP Co-Chairman to resign from this coveted position, as the consequences in the days to come may compel the ruling PPP to pack up and relinquish the government for being corrupt and inept in governance, conflicting with the Constitution of Pakistan, leading the confrontation with the Supreme Court and flouting the Constitution.
It seems the custodians are the perpetrators, and the issue has to be settled for good by those whose judgments call for prudence in governance, corruption-control and power limitations. Punishment should be awarded to those who held counterfeited degrees, concealed assets in filing their assets declarations with tax officials and the Election authorities.
The Global Report, which is part of the global community’s historic papers, recalls that the Switzerland authorities had previously been compelled to refund the looted money of the public to the governments that had managed to convince Swiss officials, the Supreme Court of Switzerland and other relevant countries that the money belonged to the people.
The Philippines’ is a classical case which through the Presidential Commission on Good Governance pleaded its case and compelled the foreign banks to refund billions of dollars. Identical is the case here in Pakistan where the person charged with money laundering, corruption and kickbacks through political manipulation and international agreements got the most prestigious position (the Presidency) and now faces the critical moments at the hands of the independent judiciary which is writing the history in most judicious manner and has created a fear and fright for those who had been the beneficiaries of black-law National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO); now annulled, but the beneficiaries still enjoy their position in the government.
The rulers got a constitutional cover through their own interpretations, whether they are in the Punjab government heading a leading opposition outfit or in the central set-up enjoying the so-called immunity under the Constitution. It is lamentable that corruption is being covered and protected by the Parliament of Pakistan, whereas the Parliament, being a sovereign institution in democratic set-up, could have formed a Parliamentary Commission on Good Governance and endeavoured to have the looted public money refunded. Contrary to this, the people of Pakistan are being hoodwinked in the name of farce democracy. All political maneuvering is being employed to keep the looted national wealth in safe custody abroad. Here is a list of the huge assets, worth billions of dollars, allegedly owned or attributed to the Honourable President of Pakistan, with major heads of accounts and wealth required to be investigated:
1. Plot no. 121, Phase VIII, DHA Karachi.
2. Agricultural land situated in Deh Dali Wadi, Taluka, Tando Allah Yar.
3. Agricultural property located in Deh Tahooki Taluka, District Hyderabad measuring 65.15 acres.
4. Agricultural land falling in Deh 76-Nusrat, Taluka, District Nawabshah measuring 827.14 acres
5. Agricultural land situated in Deh 76-Nusrat, Taluka, District Nawabshah measuring 293.18 acres
6. Residential plot No 3 (Now House) Block No B-I, City Survey No 2268 Ward-A Nawabshah
7. Huma Heights (Asif Apartments) 133, Depot Lines, Commissariat Road, Karachi
8. Trade Tower Building 3/CL/V Abdullah Haroon Road, Karachi
9. House No 8, St 9, F-8/2, Islamabad
10. Agricultural land in Deh 42 Dad Taluka/ District Nawabshah
11. Agricultural land in Deh 51 Dad Taluka Distt Nawabshah
12. Plot No 3 & 4 Sikni (residential) Near Housing Society Ltd. Nawabshah
13. Caf Sheraz (C.S No.. 2231/2 & 2231/3) Nawabshah
14. Agricultural land in Deh 23-Deh Taluka & District Nawabshah
15. Agricultural property in Deh 72-A, Nusrat Taluka, Nawabshah
16. Agricultural land in Deh 76-Nusrat Taluka, Nawabshah
17. Plot No. A/136 Survey No 2346 Ward A Government Employee’s Cooperative Housing Society Ltd, Nawabshah
18. Agricultural land in Deh Jaryoon Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad
19. Agricultural land in Deh Aroro Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad
20. Agricultural land in Deh Nondani Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad
21. Agricultural land in Deh Lotko Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad
22. Agricultural land in Deh Jhol Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad
23. Agricultural land in Deh Kandari Taluka Tando Allah Yar, Distt. Hyderabad
24. Agricultural land in Deh Deghi Taluka Tando Mohammad Khan
25. Agricultural land in Deh Rahooki Taluka, Hyderabad
26. Property in Deh Charo Taluka, Badin
27. Agricultural property in Deh Dali Wadi Taluka, Hyderabad
28. Five acres prime land allotted by DG KDA in 1995/96
29. 4,000 kanals on Simli Dam
30. 80 acres of land at Hawkes Bay
31. 13 acres of land at Maj Gulradi (KPT Land)
32. One acre plot, GCI, Clifton
33. One acre of land, State Life (Karachi sadar)
34. FEBCs worth Rs. 4 million
Sugar industry and shareholding:
1. Sakrand Sugar Mills Nawabshah
2. Ansari Sugar Mills Hyderabad
3. Mirza Sugar Mills Badin
4. Pangrio Sugar Mills Thatta
5. Bachani Sugar Mills Sanghar
Front companies abroad:
1. Bomer Fiannce Inc, British Virgin Islands
2. Mariston Securities Inc, British Virgin Islands
3. Marleton Business S A, British Virgin Islands
4. Capricorn Trading S A, British Virgin Islands
5. Fagarita Consulting Inc, British Virgin Islands
6. Marvil Associated Inc, British Virgin Islands
7. Pawnbury Finance Ltd, British Virgin Islands
8. Oxton Trading Limited, British Virgin Islands
9. Brinslen Invest S A, British Virgin Islands
10. Chimitex Holding S A, British Virgin Islands
11. Elkins Holding S A, British Virgin Islands
12. Minister Invest Ltd, British Virgin Islands
13. Silvernut Investment Inc, British Virgin Islands
14. Tacolen Investment Ltd, British Virgin Islands
15. Marlcrdon Invest S A, British Virgin Islands
16. Dustan Trading Inc, British Virgin Islands
17. Reconstruction and Development Finance Inc, British Virgin Islands
18. Nassam Alexander Inc.
19. Westminster Securities Inc.
20. Laptworth Investment Inc 202, Saint Martin Drive, West Jacksonville
21. Intra Foods Inc. 3376, Lomrel Grove, Jacksonville, Florida
22. Dynatel Trading Co, Florida
23. A.S Realty Inc. Palm Beach Gardens Florida
24. Bon Voyage Travel Consultancy Inc, Florida
Assets and properties in the UK attributed to the President and spouse:
1. 355 acre Rockwood Estate, Surrey (Now stands admitted)
2. Flat 6, 11 Queensgate Terrace, London SW7
3. 26 Palace Mansions, Hammersmith Road, London W14
4. 27 Pont Street, London, SW1
5. 20 Wilton Crescent, London SW1
6. 23 Lord Chancellor Walk, Coombe Hill, Kingston, Surrey
7. The Mansion, Warren Lane, West Hampstead, London
8. A flat at Queensgate Terrace, London
9. Houses at Hammersmith Road, Wilton Crescent, Kingston and in Hampstead.
1. 12-3 Boulevard De-Nieuport, 1000, Brussels, (Building containing 4 shops and 2 large apartments)
2. Chausee De-Mons, 1670, Brussels
La Manoir De La Reine Blanche and property in Cannes and the recently disclosed palace of high value in frank.
The US properties and allegedly managed by a Qureshi there:
1. Stud farm in Texas
2. Wellington Club East, West Palm Beach
3. 12165 West Forest Hills, Florida
4. Escue Farm 13,524 India Mound, West Palm Beach
5. 3,220 Santa Barbara Drive, Wellington Florida
6. 13,254 Polo Club Road, West Palm Beach Florida
7. 3,000 North Ocean Drive, Singer Islands, Florida
8. 525 South Flager Driver, West Palm Beach, Florida
9. Holiday Inn Houston Owned by Asif Ali Zardari, Iqbal Memon and other.
1nion Bank of Switzerland (Account No. 552.343, 257.556.60Q, 433.142.60V, 216.393.60T)
1. Citibank Private Limited (SWZ) (Account No. 342034)
2. Citibank N A Dubai (Account No. 818097)
3. Barclays Bank (Suisse) (Account No. 62290209)
4. Barclays Bank (Suisse) (Account No. 62274400)
5. Banque Centrade Ormard Burrus S A
6. Banque Pache S A
7. Banque Pictet & Cie
8. Banque La Henin, Paris (Account No. 00101953552)
9. Bank Natinede Paris in Geneva (Account NO.. 563.726.9)
10. Swiss Bank Corporation
11. Chase Manhattan Bank Switzerland
12. American Express Bank Switzerland
13. Societe De Banque Swissee
14. Barclays Bank (Knightsbridge Branch) (Account No. 90991473)
15. Barclays Bank, Kingston and Chelsea Branch, (Sort Code 20-47-34135)
16. National Westminster Bank, Alwych Branch (Account No. 9683230)
17. Habib Bank (Pall Mall Branch).
18. National Westminster Bank, Barking Branch, (Account No. 28558999).
19. Habib Bank AG, Moorgate, London EC2
20. National Westminster Bank, Edgware Road, London
21. Banque Financiei E Dela Citee, Credit Suisse
22. Habib Bank AG Zurich, Switzerland
23. Pictet Et Cie, Geneva
24. Credit Agricole, Paris
25. Credit Agridolf, Branch 11, Place Brevier, 76440, Forges Les Faux
26. Credit Agricole, Branch Haute – Normandie, 76230, Boise Chillau m
With such details, the question still arises as to who will conduct an investigation, especially in the US, Europe and other countries where political considerations are more vital than corruption-control. Putting aside the UN Convention on corruption for a while, would Pakistan, a country dependent on US aid and assistance, go for this probe and prosecution at home and abroad, is a multi-billion-dollar question itself.