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Pakistani Businessman Jets Around World, Family Pockets Swiss Social Benefits

Swiss authorities have spent years investigating a jet-setting Pakistani man whose Zurich-based family somehow qualified for nearly $10,000 a month in social benefits. A Swiss court has finally delivered a verdict in the high-profile fraud case.

Room and board and more (images of money)
Room and board and more (images of money)


ZURICH -- A Pakistani man living with his family in Zurich has received a 24-month prison sentence for fraud and falsifying documents. The man jetted around the world on business while his family lived on social benefits. Along with a carpet business, the man also brokered deals to sell technical equipment to the Pakistani military, and tried to export Swiss armored personnel carriers to Pakistan.

The court determined that between 2002 and 2007, the defendant received approximately $217,000 in social and unemployment benefits from the Swiss government. State prosecutors accused him of receiving even more money. The court dismissed the prosecution's estimate of roughly $542,000 for lack of proof.

The case first came to public attention when a Swiss newspaper wrote about the family in 2007. The newspaper published two articles on the matter, noting that the six-member family was receiving monthly social benefits of $9,900 and yet enjoyed a rather extravagant lifestyle. They employed several domestic workers and took many trips back to Pakistan, the articles reported. The City Council investigative committee took the matter up from there, and published a report in January 2008.

The report found that the $9,900 – for rent, health insurance, basic needs and house help -- was justified according to relevant regulations. A parking space was also included, although the man rented this out. Although the exact financing of trips back to Pakistan could not be established, the wife claimed that relatives paid for them. How the man's frequent international travel was financed was unclear.

The committee concluded that certain "lessons' could be learned from the case. Authorities, the committee decided, should have a firmer grip on reasons why receivers of benefits would travel and what their available assets are. In the case of people who claim to be self-employed, the state should have more knowledge about the exact nature of their work.

City Councilor Urs Egger, who presided over the committee, said it was clear "something was not right" about the family's situation. Alex Baur, the Weltwoche journalist who published the two articles about the family, called the whole thing a "farce."

State prosecutor Sabine Tobler had asked for a 42-month sentence without parole for the 58-year-old defendant, who was not present in court for reasons of ill-health.

Read the full story in German by Stefan Hohler

Photo - images of money

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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