‘Zardari could pocket 3 mn pounds from sale of English mansion’

September 22nd, 2008 - 8:02 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 22 (IANS) Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari could pocket three million pounds (Rs.258 million) from the sale of an English mansion after corruption charges against him were dropped, a newspaper reported Monday. Zardari had denied ownership of the mansion for eight years while the Pakistan government pursued corruption charges against him.

Rockwood House in Surrey, which was owned by Zardari and his wife Benazir Bhutto - the former prime minister who was assassinated last year - was sold in 2004.

But corruption cases in Pakistan and Switzerland stopped Zardari from keeping the profits from the sale of the house, which had been put into the hands of a liquidator.

Now, along with the other cases against him, Pakistan has dropped its claim over Rockwood, but a profit of 4.3 million pounds has been eroded to three million pounds after creditors and legal expenses were paid off, the Guardian newspaper reported.

However, the newspaper quoted Steven Taylor of the liquidator SPW Poppleton and Appleby as saying: “Who gets the money has yet to be resolved - and it could drag on.”

The 135-hectare mansion, known in Pakistan as Surrey Palace was bought in 1995 for 2.5 million pounds during Bhutto’s second term as prime minister - and suspicions that the purchase was funded by slush funds led to Bhutto’s sacking in 1996.

The true ownership of the mansion remained a matter of speculation until documents that were in the possession of Zardari and Bhutto’s Swiss lawyers came to light in 1997, the Guardian said.

In addition to any money that Zardari may get from Rockwood House, Swiss authorities have released 32 million pounds in frozen assets after prosecutors dropped their money-laundering investigation against Zardari at the request of the Pakistani government.

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