Pakistan: Major relief for ex-PM Nawaz Sharif as Islamabad HC acquits him in Avenfield corruption case

Three-time former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Image Source : PTI Three-time former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

In a major relief for three-time former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday acquitted him in the Avenfield properties corruption case. An accountability court in 2018 convicted Nawaz in the case and sentenced him to 10 years for owning assets beyond known income, with an additional year for non-cooperation with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The verdict was announced by a two-member bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, who were hearing the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo’s appeal against his conviction in the case, Pakistani daily Dawn reported.

It is worth mentioning that Nawaz left for London on medical grounds in 2019 and spent nearly four years there before returning to Pakistan last month. He was declared a proclaimed offender in the Avenfield case by the IHC in 2020. Following his return, the PML-N leader had filed an application against his conviction.

The High Court set aside the accountability court’s verdict and accepted Nawaz’s appeal after he said that the pending appeals were dismissed for non-prosecution while he was abroad. The plea had requested the court to revive the pending appeal on merit.

“I thank God as I had left the entire matter on him. God has made us victorious today,” Nawaz told reporters after the hearing on Wednesday. Taking to X, his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif said that this was an example of when God vindicates those who put their unwavering trust in him.

What was the case about?

The Avenfield case refers to the purchase of four flats in Avenfield House in London’s Park Lane. Nawaz, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain Safdar were indicted in the case on October 19, 2017, while a joint investigation team found that the Sharifs owned the flats since 1993.

The JIT report also said that Nawaz had distanced himself from the apartments and was unable to explain the time and procedure for obtaining possession of the flats. He was even uncertain about which son claimed the ownership of the apartments at that time. Notably, this case was part of the Supreme Court’s ruling that disqualified Nawaz from holding public office in its order on the Panama Papers case.

The following year, the accountability court sentenced Nawaz to ten years in prison for owning assets beyond his declared income and one more year for not cooperating with the NAB, while also imposing a fine of eight million pounds.

Last year, the IHC had acquitted Maryam and her spouse retired Capt Safdar of the charges levelled in the Aven­field apartments reference and set aside an accountability court’s 2018 verdict.

Things going well for Nawaz Sharif

Earlier this month, an accountability court in Pakistan ordered authorities to release all movable and immovable properties seized from the former prime minister in 2020 in connection with a corruption case. Judge Muhammad Bashir of the Islamabad accountability court, while hearing the Toshakhana case against the former PM, read the verdict on November 10.

In 2020, an accountability court ordered the confiscation of the property owned by the former prime minister in the Toshakhana vehicles reference after he was declared an absconder by the Islamabad High Court.

The Toshakhana case file against Sharif accuses him of obtaining a vehicle from Toshakhana (the gift depository) by paying 15% of the price of the car. According to reports, Sharif was not holding any public office in 2008 but was given a vehicle without any justification.

Last month, the interim government ‘suspended’ the sentence awarded to the PML-N leader in the Al-Azizia reference, making him eligible to run the upcoming general elections. He was awarded a seven-year sentence in the case before his departure for London.

His daughter Maryam had also been sentenced to seven years in jail in the case. However, she was acquitted in September 2022 along with her husband Safdar.

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