Revisiting Swiss cases

The government has decided to revisit the infamous Swiss bank accounts cases against former president Asif Ali Zardari. It was widely perceived that the case involving millions in kickback was shelved forever and cannot be reopened but now the PTI government has finally decided to revisit them.

Zardari was accused of money laundering and receiving $60 million in kickbacks stashed in Swiss bank accounts. A couple of years ago, NAB told the Supreme Court that the case cannot be reopened as they were time bound and the appeals had been filed too late. The anti-graft watchdog claimed the Swiss authorities had said the statutory limitation had passed and had refused to open them.

The situation changed when the recent Broadcast inquiry report was released which recommended prosecuting two former NAB chairmen for mishandling the case. The damning report declared NAB’s tenure from 2011 to 2017 as the “darkest period” in its history. It said that NAB officers had “shrewdly played their role in closing down the Swiss cases by misleading the court.”

The PPP and PML-N were in power during the time when the Swiss cases were closed owning to the NAB officers’ handling despite having the original record of the cases. In 2012, the PPP government refused to write a letter to Swiss authorities despite the court’s directives and then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was even disqualified. The PPP waved a sigh of relief when NAB closed down the case indefinitely but now the situation has flipped once again.

The Swiss bank accounts case has a long history dating back to the first term of Benazir Bhutto. In 1998, Nawaz Sharif initiated the case accusing Benazir and Zardari of embezzling $60 million in kickbacks. In 2003, Benazir and Zardari were declared guilty but the proceedings cast doubt on the transparency of the verdict. In 2007, General Musharraf granted the NRO which was subsequently repealed. By 2012, Zardari was president and had immunity from prosecution.

It needs to be seen what action the government will take by reviving the case. The federal cabinet has instructed the FIA to probe two former NAB chairmen and their officers. Will the government merely beat a dead horse by reviewing the case or will it actually retrieve the ill-gotten wealth stashed abroad? The saga of the Swiss bank accounts continues. It is imperative that truth is revealed and action should be taken against those responsible.  

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