Swiss Drop Corruption Charges Against Bhutto's Widower, Cite Political Motivation

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The Geneva prosecutor said Monday he has dropped money laundering charges against Asif Ali Zardari, widower of the late Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto and favorite to become the country's next president.

Prosecutor General Daniel Zappelli noted that the Pakistan prosecutor had dropped his corruption case against Zardari partly on grounds the original charges were politically motivated.

Zappelli's move comes eight months after he dropped charges against Bhutto the day following her assassination.

Pakistani judicial officials had ordered Pakistan's case against Zardari closed after then-President Pervez Musharraf issued a controversial order quashing corruption charges against Bhutto and her husband.

Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party chose Zardari last week as its presidential candidate in the Sept. 6 election by lawmakers to fill the post left vacant by Musharraf's resignation.

Zappelli said Monday that an investigation produced too little for him to continue, in light of the Pakistani prosecutor's conclusion.

He added that the 3.9 million Swiss francs (US3.6 million) seized in the case would be given to the state of Geneva.

The Swiss had been investigating allegations that that Bhutto and Zardari used Swiss banks to launder millions of dollars in kickbacks. Bhutto and Zardari denied the allegations.

The Pakistan government asked for assistance from the Swiss in 1997.

Zardari's Geneva lawyer welcomed the decision to close the case.

"This result confirms what Mr. Zardari has argued since 1997," Saverio Lembo told The Associated Press by telephone from Paris.