Islamabad: An anti-corruption court in Pakistan on Monday sentenced ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif 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.

Accountability Court II Judge Muhammad Arshad Malik announced the short verdict in the two remaining corruption cases against the Sharif family, after reserving the decision on December 19.

Judge Malik said there was concrete evidence against the 68-year-old former premier in the Al-Azizia case, and that he was unable to provide a money trail in the case.

The court found Sharif culpable in Al-Azizia case and sentenced him to seven years in jail and also imposed a $ 2.5 million fine on him, according to initial reports.

Judge Malik said that there was no case against Sharif in the Flagship reference.

Sharif was present in the court with his lawyers. He was immediately taken into custody. It was unclear whether he will be taken to Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail or Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat Jail.

The verdict was announced almost immediately after Sharif arrived in the courtroom. He has the option to challenge the verdict against him. Three cases—Avenfield properties case, Flagship Investment case and Al-Azizia steel mills case - were launched by the National Accountability Bureau on 8 September, 2017 following a judgment by the apex court that disqualified Sharif in the Panama Papers case in July, 2017.

In July, 2018 Sharif, his daughter Maryam and his son-in-law Captain (retd.) M Safdar were sentenced to 11 years, eight years and one year respectively in prison in the Avenfield properties case related to their purchase of four luxury flats in London through corrupt practices. However, the three were bailed out by the Islamabad high court in September. The Supreme Court set the deadline for 24 December to wrap up the remaining two corruption cases against the three-time former prime minister.

Security has been beefed up around the judicial complex, with heavy contingents of police and Rangers deployed around the building and along roads leading to the court.

A large number of Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supporters and senior party leaders were present outside the court to show their support for the party’s supreme leader. Several senior PML-N leaders, including former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, were also present.

Ahead of the verdict, Sharif said his conscience was clear.

“I do not have any sort of fear; my conscience is clear. I have done nothing that would force me to bow my head. (I) have always served the country and this nation with absolute honesty," said the former prime minister.

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