The ruling came after a 15-month investigation into his family’s wealth after Sharif’s children were linked to offshore banking companies in the 2015 release of confidential data known as the Panama Papers scandal. Although Sharif has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the case, a panel of five judges reached a unanimous verdict in the Islamabad court — and Sharif resigned Friday.
The court ordered trials in lower accountability court against several people on corruption charges, including Sharif, daughter Maryam, son-in-law Muhammad Safdar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and others. It also ordered the National Accountability Bureau, Pakistan’s anti-corruption agency, to compile and send evidence to the courts so that hearings can quickly begin.
Leaks of the Panama Papers revealed that three of Sharif’s adult children owned offshore companies and assets not listed on his family’s government-ordered financial disclosure statement. The companies allegedly moved funds to acquire foreign assets, including London real estate.
Sharif’s reputation was tarnished by implications that the offshore companies were used to conceal or launder illegally-obtained wealth, or to avoid taxes. The panel ruled that Sharif was dishonest in filing the disclosures, and therefore unfit for office.
Pakistan’s ruling party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, can appoint an interim prime minister until the 2018 general election, but it is unclear who will immediately succeed Sharif.
Sharif was one year away from becoming the first Pakistani prime minister, among 18 since the country’s 1947 independence, to complete a full term in office.