An accountability court in Pakistan has declared former prime minister Nawaz Sharif a proclaimed offender over his continued absence from the proceedings in a graft case. The court has also charged former president Asif Zardari and ex-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Toshakhana (treasury) reference.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) filed the case in March of this year, accusing the three of violating treasury rules, which resulted in a heavy loss to the national exchequer.
The anti-graft body accused Yousuf Raza Gillani of extending benefits to Sharif and Zardari to allow them keep the luxury vehicles gifted to them by foreign dignitaries by relaxing procedures.
The reference stated that “through dishonest and illegal means for their personal benefit and interest” the accused retained the vehicles in question “against a nominal payment of 15% of the total value”.
The former prime minister, who is undergoing medical treatment in London, is wanted in at least seven corruption cases. His bail, which was approved in October 2019 on health grounds, ended in early 2020 and an extension was dismissed on 27 February 2020.
The NAB issued an arrest warrant against Sharif for failing to cooperate with the anti-graft body earlier this month. In another case, Sharif is charged with corruption over alleged money laundering via the sale of shares in Chaudhry Sugar Mills Ltd in 1992.
Sharif was serving a seven-year prison sentence before he fell sick in October. He was flown to London after a court granted him bail.
When Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power in 2018, he launched an anti-graft campaign to bring back billions of dollars allegedly squirrelled abroad by the leaders of the previous government.
In August, Khan had admitted that allowing Sharif to leave the country on health grounds had been a "mistake". Khan had earlier directed his administration to use all legal means to bring Sharif back from the United Kingdom. He had said that it was the responsibility of the government to bring back all those wanted by the courts.