Former Pakistan prime minister and multi-millionaire Nawaz Sharif has been accused of buying millions of pounds worth of properties in London with dirty money.
Sharif has lived in Mayfair’s Avenfield House since 1993. He knocked four luxury flats together to make a single mansion which is now worth at least £7 million.
He shares the property with his sons, Hassan and Hussain, his daughter and political heir-apparent Maryam, and her husband Muhammad Safdar.
For the past four months, all five of them have been on trial in Pakistan accused of money-laundering.
Prosecutors claim the Avenfield flats, which form just a fraction of a London property empire owned by Sharif’s family, were bought with dirty money.
If found guilty, the family’s assets will be confiscated and they will face huge fines and jail sentences of up to 14 years.
Sharif and his family deny any wrongdoing and none has yet been convicted of any offence. Their supporters claim the charges against them are politically motivated.
According to the Mail on Sunday, the family have also been accused of using dirty money to buy at least 21 other UK properties, mainly in Mayfair, Chelsea and Belgravia. The total value of the properties is estimated to be at least £32 million.
The family has made huge profits from other sites which have not figured in court, such as One Hyde Park Place, which Nawaz Sharif’s son Hassan sold for £43 million, the newspaper reported.
According to prosecutors, the Sharifs have for years moved their money in and out of Britain, Switzerland, the Middle East and the British Virgin Islands to conceal its dishonest origin.
Under Pakistan’s national accountability laws – first enacted in 1997 when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister – the Sharifs must prove their assets were acquired legitimately.
A 10-volume dossier, which is part of the formal court record, claims the family’s assets exceed their demonstrable legal income and cites nine separate ongoing corruption investigations into Nawaz.
Sharif’s main political rival is the former Pakistan cricket captain Imran Khan, who campaigned for Pakistan’s courts to order the investigation into the Sharifs.
“This case has raised the awareness of corruption in Pakistan to unprecedented levels,” Khan said. “Before, people used to accept it. It was part of the colonial mindset. Not anymore. But you in Britain have to play your part. Corruption and money laundering that transfers wealth from poor countries to rich causes poverty and death.”
The Panama Papers revealed the Sharif family had assets worth millions in Britain and many other countries.
But the Sharifs argue many of their properties were ultimately derived from a single original source: the sale, in 1980, of a 25% stake in a Dubai steelworks once owned by Nawaz Sharif’s grandfather, Mian Sharif. They claim he sold this stake for about £1.2 million and entrusted the sum to his nephew, Mian Shafi.
Shafi gave it in cash to a now deceased Qatari prince, who agreed to invest in a company owned by the royal family. The prince made no written record of this because, Nawaz Sharif told the investigators, his grandfather “did not believe in documentation”.