Pakistan’s prime minister could be removed from office within days after his children were accused of lying under oath and submitting fake documents to a committee that is investigating allegations of corruption.
Nawaz Sharif, 67, could be ejected by the Supreme Court next week, a year before a general election that he was favourite to win. The investigating committee, which is looking into the family’s undisclosed wealth, submitted its findings to the court on Monday evening. Yesterday the entire report had been leaked and much of Pakistan was poring over it.
Mr Sharif is accused of lying to investigators about his overseas assets, including an offshore company in Dubai of which he was chairman. His two sons and his daughter, Maryam, who has been groomed as his political heir, are accused of having submitted falsified documents to the committee. Opponents have accused the family of raiding the public purse and laundering millions in overseas assets, including a portfolio of luxury London properties.
The Sharifs have dismissed the report as “trash” and the prime minister’s party has backed him. However, at least one cabinet minister is said to have urged Mr Sharif to resign and opponents have called for him to be jailed.
The prime minister has repeatedly denied any connection to the four luxury flats at Avenfield House on Park Lane, central London, or the offshore companies used to buy them. The companies were uncovered in the Panama papers scandal last year, when millions of leaked files from the law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed the offshore dealings of the world’s super rich.
Investigators claim that Mr Sharif is the only person to have stayed in Apartment 16 at Avenfield House. “This exclusive use makes him the sole beneficiary of the apartment as far as possession is concerned,” they say. Most damning for Mr Sharif is the revelation that he is chairman of FZE Capital, a company registered in Dubai. He has denied holding stakes in offshore companies in declarations before parliament and testimony to investigators.
Resignation is not enough, the Sharif family’s next home will be Adiala prison
The report alleges huge discrepancies between the scale of the family’s wealth and their apparent sources of income. Stewardship of companies, including disbursement of large cash gifts, is claimed to be a “likely attempt” at money laundering. Investigators allege that Ms Sharif’s personal wealth multiplied more than 20 times in one year in the early 1990s “without any declared income”.
Imran Khan, the opposition leader and former captain of Pakistan’s cricket team, said yesterday: “Nawaz Sharif lied to the nation, parliament and Supreme Court. Resignation is not enough, the Sharif family’s next home will be Adiala prison.” The Supreme Court will hear submissions from Mr Sharif’s lawyers on Monday, before deciding if it accepts the report’s findings. If it does, Mr Sharif could be stripped of office immediately and face a criminal investigation.
Hugh Tomlinson, Aoun Sahi