Pakistani gold dealer in Bhutto graft case denies he paid bribes
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) _ A Pakistani gold trader said Wednesday his government is pressuring him to testify against Benzair Bhutto’s jailed husband in a corruption case.
The trader, Haji Abdul Razzaq, heads the Dubai-based ARY, a gold-trading firm that imports nearly 100 tons of gold annually, a quarter of it to Pakistan. He said Seifur Rehman, the chief prosecutor in the corruption case against Bhutto, Pakistan’s former prime minister, and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, had offered him immunity to testify against them.
Abdul Razzaq is accused of bribing Zardari with $11.8 million in return for a monopoly on gold imports to Pakistan.
``Seifur Rehman told me `I will reward you and protect you if you testify against Zardari,‴ Abdul Razzaq told The Associated Press. ``But why should I say things that are not true?″
Neither Rehman nor other government officials were immediately available for comment.
Ms. Bhutto was in power twice from 1988 to 1996, when she was dismissed on charges of corruption and misrule. The new government is investigating Ms. Bhutto, her husband _ who has been in jail since November _ and her mother Nusrat Bhutto for corruption.
Ms. Bhutto has denied any wrongdoing.
Zardari is also being investigated for possible involvement in the murder of his brother-in-law, Murtaza Bhutto.
Abdul Razzaq said he refused Rehman’s offer and denied any illegal dealings with Zardari. It is not known if Pakistan is seeking to extradite him. ``Their allegations are rubbish,″ he said.
Abdul Razzaq said he last saw Zardari and Ms. Bhutto at a meeting in October. He said Ms. Bhutto’s administration regularly sought his advice on economic matters.
Four Swiss banks announced Monday they had frozen Ms. Bhutto’s accounts along with those of her husband and mother to comply with a Pakistani government request.
Zardari was rumored to have received huge kickbacks on every major deal in Pakistan, allegations that were not proven but gained popular credence because of his lavish lifestyle.