Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Judge's Son Accused of Corruption in Pakistan ; Chief Justice Distances Himself from Case, Which Supporters Call Baseless

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Judge's Son Accused of Corruption in Pakistan ; Chief Justice Distances Himself from Case, Which Supporters Call Baseless

Article excerpt

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry announced the formation of a two-member panel to investigate the claims, which supporters dismissed as an attempt to undermine his reputation.

Amid accusations of conflict of interest, Pakistan's chief justice announced Thursday that he was removing himself from a panel investigating corruption allegations against his son and announced the formation of a two-member bench to look into the claims.

The announcement by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was made as rumors surfaced that his son, Arsalan Iftikhar Chaudhry, had accepted bribes worth 300 million to 400 million rupees, or $3 million to $4 million, from a powerful real estate tycoon with ties to the president, several leading politicians and the military.

Malik Riaz Hussain, the businessman, did not attend the court proceedings. Zahid Bukhari, his lawyer, told the court that Mr. Hussain was undergoing medical treatment in London and could not travel.

On Thursday, Kamran Khan, one of the country's most popular talk show hosts, told the court that Mr. Hussain had showed him travel documents, credit card statements and details of Arsalan Chaudhry's stays in London and on the Riviera. Mr. Khan said Mr. Hussain had complained that despite spending so much money on the justice's son, he could not win any support in 42 court cases.

Justice Chaudhry tried to distance himself from his son and at one point remarked: "I will not call him my son. This is Mr. Arsalan standing in front of us." He claimed to be unaware of his son's business dealings. Justice Chaudhry said that according to the teachings of the Koran, parents are not responsible for the actions of their children. He also insisted that his financial record had remained unblemished in handling high-profile court cases for more than two decades.

Justice Chaudhry said the new two-person panel would initiate proceedings later Thursday. The court proceedings, which began Wednesday, have drawn immense interest in the country and the case has made front-page headlines.

The News, a leading English-language daily, published a report that Arsalan Chaudhry had admitted taking expensive vacations in Europe in 2010 and 2011 but claimed he was unaware that Mr. Hussain had picked up any bills for him and his family.

The accusations have placed Justice Chaudhry, a strong-willed judge whose policy of unchecked judicial activism has affected officials at the highest levels, in a notably awkward spot.

The case has riveted and confused much of the public, in part because the proceedings are based on news media speculation rather than any official complaint.

The news media have been abuzz in recent days over accounts accusing Mr. Hussain of paying for Arsalan Chaudhry to take lavish European vacations and go on shopping sprees in order to curry favor with his father. …

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