A Pakistani anti-corruption court on Thursday indicted Sharif and his daughter over allegations linked to ownership of London properties, pressing charges over accusations that could see the former leader jailed.
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Sharif, 67, resigned in July after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding office over an undeclared source of income, but the veteran leader maintains his grip on the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
Sharif, his daughter Maryam, as well as her husband Muhammad Safdar, were all indicted by a court of the anti-corruption agency, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
They all pleaded not guilty. Maryam and Safdar were present in court, but Sharif sent a representative while he tends to his ailing wife in Britain as she undergoes cancer treatment.
Maryam Sharif again denied the allegations as “baseless” after exiting the courtroom. She said her father would return to Pakistan and they would “face these cases with courage”.
The former prime minister is unlikely to be arrested on his return home as the court has already granted bail.
Rana Sanaullah, a senior leader of his party, said “we knew justice would not be done”. Sanaullah added there were “hidden hands” behind Sharif’s dismissal and the spate of corruption allegations, without elaborating.
Sharif’s disqualification stemmed from the Panama Papers leaks in 2016 that appeared to show his daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and used them to buy posh flats in London.
The Supreme Court initially declined to dismiss Sharif but ordered an investigation into his family’s wealth. After the probe, it disqualified him and ordered the NAB to investigate and conduct a trial.
A separate Supreme Court-appointed panel said the family’s wealth did not match its income and accused Maryam and her brothers of signing forged documents to obscure ownership of offshore companies used to buy the London flats.
The NAB has in the past been described as toothless because of its low conviction rates, especially when it comes to powerful politicians, and investigations that last many years.
But the Supreme Court has ordered the trial to be concluded within six months. Opening arguments begin on October 26.