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Switzerland

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)


*NEWSBITES

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

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Society

Mahsa Amini, Martyr Of An Iranian Regime Designed To Abuse Women

The 22-year-old is believed to have been beaten to death at a Tehran police station last week after "morality police" had reprimanded her clothing. The case has sparked the nation's outrage. But as ordinary Iranians testify, such beatings, torture and a home brand of misogyny are hallmarks of the 40-year Islamic Republic of Iran.

Mahsa Amini

Firouzeh Nordstrom

-Analysis-

TEHRAN — The death in Iran of a 22-year-old Mahsa Amini — after she was arrested by the so-called "morality police" — has unleashed another wave of protests, as thousands of Iranians vent their fury against an intrusive and violent regime. Indeed, as tragically exceptional as the circumstances appear, the reaction reflects the daily reality of abuse by authorities, especially directed toward women

Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian girl visiting Tehran with relatives, was detained by the regime's morality patrols on Sept. 13, apparently for not respecting the Islamic dress code that includes proper use of the hijab headscarf. Amini was declared dead two or three days after being taken into custody. Officials say she fainted and died, and blamed a preexisting heart condition. But neither her family nor anyone else in Iran believe that, as can be seen in the mounting protests that have now left at least three dead.

For Amini's was hardly the first arbitrary arrest, or the first suspected death in custody under Iran's Islamic regime.

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