Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the country's anti-graft body's appeal against the suspension of the jail sentences of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in the Avenfield corruption case. In July 2018, an accountability court here handed Sharif 10 years as jail time for owning assets beyond known income and 1 year for not cooperating with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
A five-member bench led by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar upheld the Islamabad High Court's verdict that ordered suspension of prison sentences awarded to Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Mohammad Safdar in the Avenfield corruption case related to their purchase of four luxury flats in London through corrupt practices.
The apex court, in its ruling, said that the NAB has failed to provide the "ground for cancellation of bail" and that the IHC had not exceeded its authority in granting bail to the convicts of the Avenfield case. The 69-year-old three-time former prime minister and his family have denied any wrongdoing.
Sharif is currently in jail after an anti-corruption court sentenced him on December 24 to seven years in jail in the Al-Azizia Steel Mills graft case while acquitting him in the Flagship Investments corruption case in the high-profile Panama Papers scandal. The NAB approached the apex court after the Islamabad High Court, on September 19, suspended prison sentences of the Sharifs awarded by an accountability court.
The accountability court convicted Maryam and Safdar in the Avenfield properties case and sentenced them to eight years and one year, respectively, in prison. Upholding the lower court's decision, the Supreme Court bench threw out the NAB's request to revoke the Sharifs' bails, observing that the anti-corruption watchdog had failed to provide the "grounds for cancellation of bail".
The IHC did not exceed its authority in granting bail to the convicts of the Avenfield case, Geo TV quoted the bench as observing. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who will be sworn in as the country's next chief justice later this month, stated that the IHC decision was temporary and the apex court would not interfere with the decision.
"Nawaz Sharif is already behind the bars. He did not misuse the bail, and regularly appeared in the trial court [for hearings]," Justice Khosa remarked. Three cases of corruption ? the Avenfield properties case, Flagship Investment case and Al-Azizia steel mills case - were launched by the NAB on September 8, 2017 following a judgment by the apex court that disqualified Sharif.
The apex court initially set six month deadline to conclude the cases but it was subsequently increase around eight times on the request of the accountability court. Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case in July, 2017.