ISLAMABAD: It’s a scandal and a label that refuses to go away. Allegations of kickbacks to the tune of ten per cent on government deals have come back to haunt the beleaguered president.
But the investigations do not come from within Pakistan but have been unearthed by a French court and released in French newspaper Liberation.
Standing by his story, French journalist Guillaume Dasquie says: ‘Today we are absolutely sure that Mr Zardari received a lot of kickbacks from this contract signed in September 1994, with DCN, the builder of the submarine.’
He was referring to a deal between France and Pakistan for French state contractor DCN to build the subs in Karachi.
It was during Benazir Bhutto’s second tenure and the infamous era where Asif Zardari earned the nickname Mr Ten Per Cent.
The allegations in the French paper have been slammed by Pakistani officials. President Zardari’s spokesman said in a statement: ‘This is actually new regurgitation of an old story which was already contradicted by French President Mr Sarkozy on July 11 this year as ‘untrue’, ‘malicious’ and ‘mischievous’. It is part of a media trial of PPP leadership which we condemn and dismiss with the contempt it deserves’.
The denial by the French president that Mr Farhatullah Babar refers to was scoffed at by Guillaume Dasquie. When this correspondent asked him about Mr Sarkozy’s comments he laughed — ‘the contract had to be underwritten by our ministry of budgets, the fact is that at that time Sarkozy was the minister in charge, he was embarrassed and that’s the reason he denied it.’
He also says the evidence is undeniable. ‘Because this is a very sensitive case — we prefer to have evidence in writing in the form of bank statements or from law-enforcement services. People can say whatever they want so we prefer to have strong evidence.’
The evidence has probably been revealed when a French court investigating the deaths of 11 DCN workers in a Karachi bombing allowed the release of some of the paperwork being scrutinised.
It’s claimed Mr Zardari received up to $4.3 million in kickbacks. An amount of $49.5 million is what the military (or the then top man in Navy) allegedly received as part of the same deal.
Some of the transactions were uncovered by Swiss Judge Vincent Fournier during separate investigations into money laundering by the late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari.
Several payments were allegedly made into Mr Zardari’s foreign bank accounts before and after the submarine deal by a Lebanese business man, Abdulrahman Al-Assir, whom Guillaume Dasquie calls ‘a well known go-between here in France’.