Federal Court OK's document sharing in Bhutto probe
The Swiss Federal Court has approved information-sharing with Pakistan, relating to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The Lausanne-based Court ruled on Monday that documents concerning a number of frozen bank accounts in Switzerland should be shared with Pakistan. In so doing it overturned requests from three companies to block the transfer of such information.
The documents contain details of three accounts at Barclays Bank and Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS, in Geneva, held by three companies with headquarters in Panama and the British Virgin Islands.
Reports suggest that Bhutto, her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, and her mother, Nusrat Bhutto, had access to the accounts.
The three companies, all located in tax havens, tried to legally block the sharing of information with Pakistan, by claiming that such action would contravene human rights in the Asian country.
Following the rejection of their requests, federal judges said they could find no reason why the three companies would be interested in Pakistan's human rights, given that they were situated in tax havens far from the country.
Request for judicial help
Pakistan asked Switzerland for judicial assistance in 1997, and the Genevan authorities immediately froze assets in a handful of accounts.
Meanwhile, authorities in Geneva opened their own, parallel investigation. In 1998, Judge Daniel Devaud demanded the indictment of Bhutto and her husband on money laundering charges, in connection with transactions with two Swiss companies.
Pakistan's High Court later found Bhutto and her husband guilty of corruption and sentenced them each to five years in prison.
The amount of money allegedly laundered by the pair has been estimated at hundred of millions of dollars.
The prison sentence, however, was lifted in April, 2001, but in June, Bhutto was sentenced to three years in jail for contempt of court after she failed to appear for her corruption trial.
According to recent reports, Bhutto has lived in self-imposed exile in the United Arab Emirates and Britain during the investigations in Pakistan and Switzerland. Officials say she faces arrest if she returns to Pakistan.
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