Pakistan has sent a letter to Swiss authorities asking that they reopen a money-laundering case against President Asif Ali Zardari after an amnesty protecting him from graft prosecution was struck down by the Supreme Court, a government lawyer said on Wednesday.
The move raises the prospect Zardari could be investigated while in office and possibly convicted, greatly weakening his rule or ending it as the country battles Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He has denied any wrongdoing and insists he has immunity from prosecution because he is president.
Zardari and his late wife Benazir Bhutto were found guilty in absentia in a Geneva court in 2003 of laundering millions of Swiss francs (dollars).
They were handed six-month sentences and fined, but both punishments were automatically suspended when they appealed.
Swiss authorities abandoned the case in 2008 after the Pakistani government asked them to. The case was among thousands dropped as a result of a controversial amnesty that was part of a power-sharing deal that allowed Bhutto to return from exile and contest elections.
The amnesty was scrapped in December by the Supreme Court, which is led by a judge whom Zardari supporters say his hostile to his rule.
On Wednesday, a lawyer for the government’s anti-corruption agency said that as a result of that ruling the agency had sent a letter to the Swiss attorney general asking that the probe be reopened.
Swiss Justice Ministry spokesman Folco Galli said the ministry had yet to receive the request.
Pakistan’s supreme court, which has repeatedly clashed with the government, last December scrapped a controversial 2007 amnesty, which had protected Zardari and other politicians from possible court proceedings.
The court demands the return of millions of dollars plundered by leaders and bureaucrats, as well as action against former attorney general Malik Qayyum and an increase in the number of anti-graft courts to speedily resolve cases.