Bhutto assets to be seized

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The Independent Online
Millions of pounds of assets and documents held in Britain said to belong to Benazir Bhutto, the deposed Pakistani prime minister, and her husband, are expected to be seized after the Government agreed to assist an anti-corruption investigation by Pakistan.

Officers from Scotland Yard are expected to help gather evidence in Britain which can be held for use in any future trial.

The move follows an appeal by the Pakistan government to the Home Office to help it with its investigations into claims that the Mrs Bhutto and her husband earned a fortune through corruption and drug-dealing.

Mrs Bhutto, sacked as prime minister in November 1996 on disputed charges of corruption and misrule, has denied charges by Pakistani officials that she siphoned out millions of pounds and accuses them of starting a "media trial" to defame her family.

Members of Pakistan's anti-corruption unit are believed to have asked the British government to freeze three bank accounts in London allegedly used by Asif Zardari, the former prime minister's husband.

Senator Saifur Rehman, Pakistan's senior corruption investigator, said yesterday that Britain had been asked for "mutual bilateral legal assistance". Mr Rehman claimed that as much as $2bn may be held in various accounts.

The Home Office yesterday confirmed it had agreed to co-operate with the Pakistan authorities, although it has only been asked about material relating to Mrs Bhutto's husband.