Author: Fergus Shiel
Pakistan’s anti-corruption court has sentenced former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to a seven-year prison term for failing to account for income related to ownership of a steel mill, his second conviction since the 2016 Panama Papers investigation revealed his family’s wealth. The court also fined Sharif $25 million and barred him from holding office once more in its Dec. 24 ruling. Sharif was acquitted in a second case. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Panama Papers investigation revealed that members of Sharif’s immediate family used offshore companies to buy expensive London properties.
Sharif resigned in July 2017 after he was disqualified by Pakistan’s Supreme Court from holding the country’s highest office. One year later, in a case related to the London apartments, the Supreme Court found the three-time prime minister to have assets “disproportionate to his known means of income,” and sentenced him to 10 years in prison. His daughter, Maryam, and son-in-law, Muhammad Safdar, also were convicted then, but the following month, the three were released on bail pending appeal.
Sharif, 68, who continues to protest his innocence, was in jail a few weeks after his initial sentencing when his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, lost the nation’s general election. In sentencing the former prime minister in this month’s proceeding, the anti-corruption court said Sharif could not account for the income that procured his ownership of the al-Azizia steel mill in Saudi Arabia.
Clashed with police
Following the verdict, Sharif’s supporters clashed with police in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. Sharif was arrested following the verdict and taken to a nearby prison, local media reported. He is likely to appeal. Pakistani media reported a senior Sharif party leader, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, saying: “We will protest against the verdict and overcome it.” Sharif’s supporters have blamed his troubles on the military, which ousted him in 1999.
In April 2016, an ICIJ probe based on files leaked from Panamanian offshore provider Mossack Fonseca revealed how Sharif’s children were linked to offshore companies that owned four flats in a luxury apartment block in London. Sharif’s daughter, who also denies wrongdoing, was revealed to be the owner of the two British Virgin Islands-based firms.