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.
Judge Muhammad Bashir read the verdict before a packed courtroom in the capital Islamabad on Friday, a move that could shatter his PML-N party’s chances in an upcoming general election.
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.
The case for which he’s been sentenced relates to the ownership of four apartments in the upmarket Park Lane neighbourhood of London.
“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 Awan told reporters outside the courtroom.
The court also ordered that the apartments owned by Sharifs be seized and handed over to the Pakistani government.
With this verdict, Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz now also stands disqualified from standing in Pakistan’s July general election as a candidate.
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.
Nawaz and his party’s leaders have termed the corruption cases a witch-hunt, claiming the country’s powerful military wanted him out of power as he had challenged its control over aspects of security and foreign policy.
The Sharif family is expected to appeal Friday’s verdict at the Supreme Court.