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Nawaz Sharif sentenced to seven years in prison

25 December, 2018

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Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison in the latest conviction in a series of corruption allegations which saw him ousted from power last year.

Sharif has denied all the charges against him and claims he is being targeted by the powerful security establishment.

In its verdict on Monday, the accountability court held that the three-time prime minister was unable to prove the source of income for the ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia. The court acquitted him in the Flagship Investment reference.

The former premier requested that he be shifted to Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore instead of Adiala Jail, which was granted by the court.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to seven years in prison in the latest conviction in a series of corruption allegations which saw him ousted from power last year.

Sharif, a three-time prime minister of Pakistan, has denied all the charges against him and claims he is being targeted by the powerful security establishment.

Monday’s conviction, centred on family businesses in the Middle East, is his second stemming from a corruption investigation spurred by the Panama Papers leak, and comes as Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to tackle endemic graft in Pakistan. In its verdict, the accountability court held that the three-time prime minister was unable to prove the source of income for the ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia. The court acquitted him in the Flagship Investment reference.

The court said there was concrete evidence against the former premier in the Al-Azizia reference, and that he was unable to provide a money trail in the case. However, there was not enough evidence to convict Sharif in the Flagship reference, thus he was acquitted.

He was taken into custody from the court premises following the verdict, after which he is expected to be taken to jail.

The former premier requested that he be shifted to Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore instead of Adiala Jail, which was granted by the court.

Security was tight at the court on Monday morning, with some scuffles breaking out between Sharif’s supporters and security forces, who responded with tear gas.

The Supreme Court had disqualified Sharif from politics for life over the allegations last year, and directed an anti-corruption body to investigate three different charges regarding his family’s properties and businesses.

The months-long saga has seen him appear before accountability courts 165 times since September 2017.

In July this year, he was convicted in one case revolving around family properties in London, and sentenced to ten years in prison. He was in London at the time as his wife received cancer treatment, but returned to Pakistan days ahead of the general election, only to be arrested and imprisoned on arrival.

He was released in September after the Islamabad High Court suspended his sentence pending an appeal hearing.

Sharif has been prime minister three times but power has been a rough ride.

He was first expelled from office in 1993 on suspicion of corruption. He won an election in 1997, only to be ousted and exiled after a military coup in 1999.

He returned to Pakistan in 2007 and took power once more in 2013 until his ousting last year.

The trial against the Sharif family had commenced on September 14, 2017. On July 6, after four extensions in the original six-month deadline to conclude all three cases, the accountability court announced its verdict in the Avenfield reference. Nawaz, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar were sentenced to 11 years, eight years and one year, respectively, in prison. Nawaz and Maryam were released from jail on September 19 after the Islamabad High Court suspended their sentences in the Avenfield case.

Nawaz and his sons, Hussain and Hasan, are accused in all three references whereas Maryam and Safdar were accused in the Avenfield reference only.

The two brothers, based abroad, have been absconding since the proceedings began last year and were declared proclaimed offenders by the court.

The charge against the family is that Hassan Nawaz set up an investment firm in 2001, with an office registered in the United Kingdom. At the time he was 25-years-old. Nawaz has never accepted any connection with his son’s business, although the Bureau alleges that his name was listed as chairman of the board, further adding that Hasan was under the guardianship of his father till 1995.

Hussain Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister’s elder son, claims that he received a sum of $5.4 million from his grandfather to establish the steel conglomerate in Saudi Arabia. The payment was made by a Qatari royal on the request of the elder Sharif. Thereafter, scrap machinery was transported from their Ahli Steel Mills in Dubai to Jeddah to establish Al-Azizia in 2001. The JIT constituted to investigate the graft allegations insisted that the real owner of the mills was Nawaz Sharif, and it was being operated by his son on his behalf. Hussain was 29-years-old at the time. The JIT also held that Nawaz Sharif received 97 per cent profit as ‘gifts’ from Hill Metals Establishment, another company established by Hussain Nawaz in 2005, in Saudi Arabia.

Of the amount, Sharif transferred 77 percent to his daughter, Maryam Nawaz (who is not accused in this reference). NAB claims that since Sharif received a large profit from Hussain’s companies, he is the real owner.

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