A Pakistani anti-corruption court has found former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif guilty of corruption and sentenced him to 10 years in prison and a $10.5m fine, a move that could be a blow to his PML-N party’s chances in an upcoming general election.
Judge Muhammad Bashir read the verdict before a packed courtroom in the capital Islamabad on Friday.
The case relates to the ownership of four apartments in the upmarket Park Lane neighbourhood of London, the capital of the United Kingdom.
Sharif was dismissed as prime minister last July over corruption allegations, with the Supreme Court ordering the anti-corruption watchdog to launch proceedings against him and his family.
In 2016, an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) leak of 11.5 million legal documents – dubbed the ‘Panama Papers’ – showed the Sharif family had secured a $13.8m loan in 2007, using the apartments as collateral.
“Today, the anti-corruption court’s verdict […] has made it clear that these assets, the Avenfield apartments, were acquired through corrupt means,” prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi told reporters outside the courtroom.
Sharif’s daughter Maryam, also a political leader who has taken an increasingly frontline role in the party, was found to be involved in the ownership of a series of offshore companies, in whose name the properties were held.
The court also ordered that the apartments owned by Sharifs be seized and handed over to the Pakistani government.
Nawaz’s brother, Shehbaz Sharif, the president of the PML-N, said the party rejected the verdict, and will use all legal and constitutional means to challenge the verdict.
“I believe that the timing of this verdict is an attempt to influence the outcome of the election,” Shehbaz, a former chief minister of northern Punjab state, said at a press conference in the eastern city of Lahore.