ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison and slapped a £8 million fine (Rs1.3 billion) in the Avenfield properties reference on Friday while his daughter Maryam was sentenced to eight years with a £2 million fine (Rs335 million).

 


The sentences will run concurrently, which means Nawaz will serve 10 years in prison, while Maryam seven. Additionally, Nawaz’s son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar has been given a one year sentence without any fine.

Accountability Court-I Judge Mohammad Bashir announced the verdict today after several delays since morning.

 

Moreover, Nawaz’s sons Hassan and Hussain who have been absconding in the case were declared as “proclaimed offenders” and the court ordered non-bailable perpetual warrants of arrest agains them.

The court has also ruled that the Avenfield apartments of the Sharif family, in their possession since 1993, shall be seized by the federal government.

“Avenfield Apartments Nos 16, 16-a, 17 and 17-a stand forfeited to Federal Government within the meaning of 10(a) of NAO, 1999,” according to written verdict.

The Avenfield properties reference was one of three filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) last year in light of the Supreme Court’s verdict against Nawaz in the Panama Papers case. The reference pertains to the ownership of the Sharif family’s apartments at Avenfield House, London.

Moreover, after the hearing, NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said the accused have 10 days to file an appeal against the verdict.

In the written order of the court, the Supreme Court’s Panama Papers case verdict and work of the joint investigation team has been referred to, along with an interview of Nawaz’s son Hussain wherein he accepted ownership of the London properties.

Maryam, Safdar barred from elections

Following the verdict, Maryam and Safdar stand barred from contesting the July general election from Lahore and Mansehra, respectively.

Following the verdict, the Election Commission of Pakistan stated that Maryam’s name will be removed from the ballot papers of the NA-127 constituency after which new ballot papers will be printed.

All eyes on accountability court

All eyes were set on the accountability court hearing the high-profile corruption cases against the former prime minister and his family. Strict security arrangements, including paramilitary personnel, were in place at the Federal Judicial Complex, where the court is located. The roads leading to the complex were also closed to traffic.

Moreover, the district administration had imposed Section 144 in the capital to discourage mass gatherings.

As the hearing went under way today, Judge Bashir heard Sharifs’ request, submitted on Thursday, requesting the trial court to postpone the verdict till he is back in the country next week.

After submitting Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s medical report, Maryam’s counsel Amjad Pervez argued that the law stipulates the presence of the accused when the verdict is read out. After the prosecution opposed any delay at such a late stage of the trial, the judge reserved his verdict and adjourned the hearing for an hour.

Later, the court dismissed Sharifs’ plea and set 12:30pm as the time for announcing the verdict. However, that deadline was later extended thrice — 2:30pm, 3pm and 3:30pm — before it was finally read out after 4pm.

The judge had called lawyers of both sides inside his chambers and disallowed the media. He then stated that the media will be called in when the judgment is being read out.

Earlier, the judge, present inside his chamber, had issued the delay notices through the court staff but the 3:30 pm deadline was informed of by the judge himself. He explained that they have to make an appropriate number of photocopies of the judgment for distribution to the relevant parties.

Nawaz will return

After the verdict, Maryam Nawaz tweeted that her father Nawaz Sharif would be returning and attempts were being made to stop him.

“Today was the last attempt and God willing it will be unsuccessful like before.”

Maryam in her tweets stressed that the resolve to fight against injustice had increased following the verdict. “You [Nawaz] chose Pakistan over your personal life. The nation is with you and victory will be yours,” Maryam tweeted.

Safdar vows to stand firm

Speaking to voters prior to the verdict, Safdar said he does not fear any verdict against him, adding that he will be exonerated in the court of public opinion.

On Tuesday, the court had reserved its verdict and ordered all accused to ensure their presence in court when the verdict is read out today.

Apart from Nawaz, Maryam and Safdar, Nawaz’s sons are also accused in the case. They were declared proclaimed offenders last year owing to their no-show and will face a separate trial whenever they join the proceedings.

The accused have been charged as per the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, according to which they face maximum jail terms of 14 years and/or a fine, each.