UK's tabloid Daily Mail has apologized to Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif over a 2019 article which accused him of stealing British aid money meant for earthquake victims.
The news story, ‘Did the family of Pakistani politician who has become the poster boy for British overseas aid STEAL funds meant for earthquake victims,’ written by journalist David Rose, was published on July 14, 2019 when former Prime Minister Imran Khan was in power.
The article alleged that Sharif and his family members misappropriated funds out of more than £500 million ($612 million) aid provided by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the devastating 2005 earthquake victims when he was the chief minister of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province.
Both Sharif and DFID denied the charges, with the former filing a defamation case against the newspaper in a UK high court, seeking withdrawal of charges, damages and an apology.
In a clarification published on its website on Thursday, the British newspaper said that "we reported on an investigation by Pakistan’s National Accountability Bureau into Mr Sharif and suggested that the money under investigation included a not insubstantial sum of British public money that had been paid to the Punjab province in DFID grant aid.
"We accept Mr Sharif has never been accused by the National Accountability Bureau of any wrongdoing in relation to British public money or DFID grant aid. We are pleased to make this clear and apologise to Mr Sharif for this error."
According to Murtaza Ali Shah, a senior Pakistani journalist based in London who had been following the case, the Daily Mail has withdrawn all allegations of corruption after an out-of-court settlement with Sharif and his son-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf. The article has also been removed from all of the publication's platforms as part of the agreement, he said.
Following the apology, Sharif thanked God for his "vindication," saying "brazen lies" have been exposed and that "disinformation & fake news have limited shelf life."
Rose, the journalist who wrote the story, tweeted on Friday that the newspaper has not apologized for other allegations in the article, such as those covering alleged money-laundering.
He said Daily Mail has not paid any damages or costs to the accused, but since the claims have been settled, the case is over and the article has been removed from the internet.