- Charges of Corruption
After President Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Bhutto’s first government on 6 August 1990 because of corruption allegations, the government of Pakistan directed its intelligence agencies to investigate. Nawaz Sharif became prime minister in the ensuing elections and intensified prosecution investigation of Bhutto. Pakistani embassies through western Europe—in France, Switzerland, Spain, Poland and Britain—were directed to investigate. Bhutto and her husband Zardari faced several legal proceedings, including a charge in Switzerland of money-laundering through Swiss banks. In 1994, yet another Zardari offshore company, M.S. Capricorn Trading, was created in the British Virgin Islands. Earlier companies created were the Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) headquartered in Switzerland and its then subsidiary Cotecna, and the two British Virgin Island companies; Bomer Finances Inc and Nassam Overseas Inc. were used to receive kickbacks. While never convicted, Zardari spent eight years in prison on similar corruption charges. Released on bail in 2004, Zardari hinted that while in prison he was tortured; human rights groups have supported his claim that his rights were violated.
A 1998 New York Times investigative report claims that Pakistani investigators have documents that outline a network of bank accounts, all linked to the family’s lawyer (Jens Schlegelmilch) in Switzerland, naming Asif Zardari as principal shareholder. According to the NYT article, documents released by the French authorities indicate that Zardari offered exclusive rights to Dassault, a French aircraft manufacturer, to replace the aging fighter jets of the Air Force in exchange for a 5% commission to be paid to a Swiss corporation he controlled. The article also said that a Dubai company received an exclusive license to import gold into Pakistan, for which it paid more than $10 million into Zardari’s Dubai-based Citibank accounts. The owner of the Dubai company; Razzak Yaqub’s company, A.R.Y. International Exchange. denied making the payments and said the documents were forged.
Bhutto maintained that the charges against her and her husband were purely political. A report by a Pakistani auditor-general (AGP) supports Bhutto’s claim. It presents information suggesting that Benazir Bhutto was ousted from power in 1990 as the result of a witch hunt approved by then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. The AGP report says Khan illegally paid legal advisers 28 million rupees to file 19 corruption cases against Bhutto and her husband in 1990–92.
Yet the assets held by Bhutto and her husband continue to be scrutinised and to generate speculation. Prosecutors have alleged that the couple’s Swiss bank accounts contain £740 million. Zardari also bought a neo-Tudor mansion and estate worth over £4 million in Surrey, England. Pakistani investigations have tied other overseas properties to Zardari’s family. These include a $2.5 million manor in Normandy owned by Zardari’s parents, who had only modest assets when he his married. Bhutto has denied owning substantive overseas assets.
Despite numerous investigations, court cases and charges of corruption registered against Bhutto by Nawaz Sharif between 1996 and 1999 and Pervez Musharraf from 1999 to 2008, she has yet to be convicted in any case, after twelve years of investigation. The Pakistani cases were withdrawn by the government of Pakistan after the return to power of Bhutto’s PPP in 2008. In this hideous story PM Yousaf Raza Gillani had to leave the office for not writing letter to Swiss authorities by not following SC instructions.
· Panama Papers disclosed in 2001
Bhutto was a client of Mossack Fonseca, whose customer records were disclosed in the Panama Papers leak 7 September 2001 London law firm Richard Rooney and Co told MF-BVI (Mossack Fonseca British virgin island) to create Petroline International Inc in the British Virgin Islands. Petroline International Inc is owned by Bhutto, her nephew Hassan Ali Jaffery Bhutto, and her aide and head of security Rehman Malik, who later became a Senator and Interior Minister in the government of Yousaf Raza Gillani. Mossack Fonseca had declined to do business with Bhutto’s first company, similarly-named Petrofine FZC, established in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE). in 2000. Petrofine was “politically sensitive” they said, and “declined to accept Mrs Bhutto as a client.”
In 2006, the Pakistani NAB accused Bhutto, Malik and Ali Jaffery of owning Petrofine. Bhutto and the PPP denied this. In April 2006 an NAB court froze assets owned in Pakistan and elsewhere by Bhutto and Zardari. The $1.5 billion in assets were acquired through corrupt practices, the NAB said, and noting that the 1997 Swiss charges of criminal money-laundering were still in litigation.