ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s anti-corruption court on Monday sentenced former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to seven years imprisonment and imposed a fine of $25 million in a graft case related to ownership of a steel mill in Saudi Arabia.

However, the court acquitted him in another case related to investments in the United Kingdom and imposed a fine of 1.6 million pounds. His sons, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz were declared absconders for failing to face the charges against them.

In the much-awaited verdict, the accountability court said Sharif could not prove the source of income for the ownership of Al-Azizia steel mill but acquitted him in the case related to Flagship Investment in the UK.

He was arrested from the courtroom as the accountability court judge Arshad Malik announced the short order. The judge initially reserved his decision on Sharif’s request to send him to Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail but later accepted it.

Three corruption cases were filed against the former PM on the orders of the Supreme Court following its Panama Papers case verdict that had disqualified Sharif from office last year on July 28.

This year, in July, the accountability court had sentenced Sharif to 10 years in prison in the Avenfield reference, a case related to the purchase of upscale apartments in London. In September, the Islamabad High Court had suspended his sentence and ordered his release on bail.

On December 7, the Supreme Court had directed the accountability court to conclude the two remaining cases against Sharif by December 24, after previously granting it seven extensions to wrap up the references initiated by the National Accountability Bureau, Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog.

Soon after the announcement of the verdict on Monday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supporters clashed with security personnel. Tear gas and baton-charge were used to disperse the protesters.

Security around the Judicial Complex in Islamabad has increased ahead of the verdict, with at least 1,400 personnel deployed in and around the court premises. All routes leading to the accountability court were also sealed.

Since the court had reserved its judgement last week, the former ruling PML-N had been threatening to start a mass protest movement and disrupt parliamentary business if its leader was sent back to prison.

Sharif has been elected as Pakistan’s PM three times. He was first ousted from office in 1993 on suspicion of corruption. In 1997, he won an election and became PM for the second time, only to be expelled and exiled after a military coup by ex-army chief Pervez Musharraf in 1999. He returned to Pakistan in 2007 and regained power in 2013 until his disqualification by the apex court last year in the Panama Papers scam.
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