ISLAMABAD — Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was indicted Thursday over allegations that he and his family used offshore holding companies to buy luxury properties in London — charges stemming from the Panama Papers leaks in 2016.
Sharif, 67, was ousted from power in July by the country’s Supreme Court after months of hearings on the corruption charges.
Sharif — who was not in court — sent a plea of not guilty. His daughter Maryam and her husband Muhammad Safdar were also named in the indictment by the anti-corruption court.
Sharif’s supporters claim he is the target of high-level conspiracies that include the country’s powerful military. But Sharif decided last summer to step down rather than try to cling to power — quashing concerns about a possible military intervention in the nuclear-armed country of 180 million.
The five-member court’s findings — and now the indictment — give a powerful boost to Pakistan’s major opposition leader, former cricket star Imran Khan, 64, who brought the case against Sharif in the Supreme Court more than a year ago.
The case stemmed from disclosure of the so-called Panama Papers, which included leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm implicated leaders of several foreign countries, including Pakistan, in shady financial dealings.
The trial, set to open next week, means possible jail time for Sharif if found guilty. He was in London with his wife, who is undergoing treatment for cancer.
After the indictment, Maryam Nawaz vowed to fight the charges, which she called “a travesty of justice and a mockery of justice.”
“I refuse to accept the charges,” Nawaz told reporters outside the federal courthouse. “We are being denied a fundamental right to justice. I plead not guilty.”
Sharif did not immediately comment from London.
No Pakistani prime minister has completed a full term since the country’s founding in 1947. Sharif had served as prime minister twice in the 1990s.
Sharif repeatedly denied the charges during the Supreme Court proceedings, but offered varying and sometimes contradictory explanations as to how he and his family had financed various properties, especially a group of luxury apartments in London.
During the Supreme Court hearings, a senior justice excoriated Sharif and his family for engaging in “mafia”-like financial dealings.
Olivo reported from Kabul.