Avenfield case: The scandal that led to the downfall of Nawaz Sharif

New Delhi: Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, 68, along with his 44-year-old daughter Maryam were arrested on Friday on their return to the country after they were convicted in a corruption case, less than two weeks before the country goes to polls.

Their respective passports have also been confiscated, according to The Dawn.

On July 6, an accountability court convicted Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Captain Muhammad Safdar (retired) in the Avenfield case. While Sharif was handed a 10-year jail term, Maryam was given seven years for aiding and abetting her father in covering up the “conspiracy”. Safdar, was given one-year rigorous imprisonment for not cooperating with the NAB. Sadar was arrested last Sunday after he showed up at a party rally in Rawalpindi.

Earlier in the day, Sharif urged his followers to stand with him and “change the fate of the country” in a video message. “I have done what I could. I am aware that I have been sentenced to 10 years (in prison) and I will be taken to a jail cell straight away. But I want the Pakistani nationals to know that I am doing this for you,” he said.

Calling the case a “game of blind revenge”, Sharif told The Nation newspaper, “This was neither a case, nor there is a verdict. The whole Panama case was started to fix politics and to keep me out because I wanted a stronger democracy.” Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court last year in the Panama Papers case.

Lets’ take a look back at the case that led to his arrest.

The Avenfield case

Avenfield House is an apartment block in Park Lane, London, located next to one of city’s most expensive districts, Hyde Park. The Sharifs own four different properties (Flat 16, 16a, 17 and 17a) in this block.

After the Panama Papers were leaked in 2016, Nawaz Sharif, his three children and son-in-law Capt (retd) Safdar were accused of corruption in the Avenfield case in 2017. However, Panama Papers named him in three different cases.

The Sharif family was accused of keeping flats nearly worth Rs 63 crore through illegal sources. Nawaz’s family, on the other hand, said that the ownership belongs to Nawaz’s sons.

The Papers showed Sharif and his children (including Maryam) owned offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands. 2. The companies identified include Nescol Ltd, Nielsen Enterprises Ltd and Hangon Property Holdings Ltd, incorporated in 1993, 1994 and 2007, respectively.

The Sharif family is now facing two more corruption cases in the accountability court — Al-Azizia Steel Mills and Flagship Investments — in which they are accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets.

In 2017, the five-member Supreme Court bench had unanimously ruled against Sharif, disqualifying him from office.

Panama revelations

According to the Panama Papers, these four flats were owned by shell companies. Although three references were mentioned against the Sharifs, Maryam and her husband Safdar were only involved in the Avenfield case. However, Nawaz’s sons, Hussain and Hasan were involved in all the three references.

In 2017, Nawaz Sharif denied the allegations against him and his family claiming that the money was rightly earned during his term.

Nawaz said that the family bought the flats after selling a paper mill in Saudi Arabia in 2006.

National Accountability Bureau

NAB investigated the matter and interrogated the Sharifs about 100 times, as per a report by Dunya TV, Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif appeared before NAB about 107 times whereas, Maryam appeared for 80.

The verdict was announced by the court on July 6, 2018, where Nawaz Sharif was given a 10-year-long jail sentence while his daughter Maryam was sentenced to seven years in jail. Sharif’s son-in-law Capt Safder was also given a one-year sentence.

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