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SC dismisses NAB’s plea against suspension of Sharifs’ sentences in Avenfield case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday dismissed National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) plea and upheld the Islamabad High Court (IHC) verdict against deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield Reference, ARY News reported.

A five member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Mazhar Alam heard the plea challenging the IHC verdict in the Avenfield case which suspended the sentences of the trio.

During the hearing, Justice Ahmed remarked that, “It is not necessary that an appeal in the top court can undermine a high court verdict,” adding that the bench will look into the merits of the case.

He further asked the NAB prosecutor that on what basis does he expect the court to suspend the IHC verdict.

“Part of the verdict that granted bail was not challenged,” added Justice Ahmed. “Mere high court remarks cant be used as a basis to suspend the awarded sentence.”

Upon hearing this, the NAB prosecutor responded saying, “A bail can only be granted in certain circumstances and the high court did not shed light upon any such circumstance.”

Further on in the hearing, Justice Khosa said, “What is the problem? Has Sharif been acquitted?” To which the NAB lawyer said, “The decision is almost equal to an acquittal.”

The chief justice added that observations of an interim order does not have an effect on the submitted appeal.

Justice Khosa further asked the NAB prosecutor that how did the high court abuse its power by granting a bail? “One member of the family is behind bars already. According to your point of view, the high court verdict is wrong and you want us to commit the same mistake.”

Towards the end of the hearing, CJP Nisar asked the NAB counsel, on what grounds should the apex court suspend the bail. “Rules of granting a bail differ from rules of suspending a bail.”

The Avenfield case

An accountability court on July 6, 2018 sentenced the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) supremo to 10 years in prison and imposed a fine of £8 million after finding him guilty on different charges in the Avenfield properties case. Judge Muhammad Bashir also handed out a seven-year imprisonment to Maryam and fined her £2 million whereas her husband Safdar was awarded a one year jail term.

However on Sept 19, the IHC suspended the sentences awarded to Sharif, Maryam and Safdar in the case. A division bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb suspended their sentence in a short verdict. The verdict was announced in light of the petition filed by the trio, seeking suspension of the Avenfield verdict until a final decision is made on their appeals against the sentence.

Later, NAB approached the apex court challenging the IHC verdict releasing Sharif and his family members.

According to the Avenfield Properties reference, Sharif, his brood and his son-in-law had purchased four flats in Park Lane, UK, illegally. However, the deposed premier and his family members consistently claimed that the apartments were purchased through legal means.

They were jailed in a case stemming from 2016 Panama Papers revelations which showed that the apartments were purchased through off-shore companies.

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