UK prosecution drops assault case against Nawaz Sharif’s guard

Murtaza Ali Shah
Friday, Jun 14, 2024

LONDON: The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped the common assault criminal case against former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s former close-protection bodyguard in a dramatic development.

In April this year, the CPS had told Geo News it had decided to charge Nawaz Sharif’s driver and guard Farid Nemouchi with the alleged common assault for spitting on Panzani Cheema - a respected financial sector senior executive who works in London.

Farid Nemouchi had appeared at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court Thursday with his lawyer Barrister Moeen Khan, a criminal law expert, to face the trial but the prosecution told the court it will not run the case and had decided to drop the criminal charges. A document presented in the court and seen by this reporter said the case is being dropped because “the evidence doesn’t meet the threshold of realistic prospects of success”.

Farid Nemouchi had been charged with the alleged “common assault” on a complaint made by Panzani Cheema, who is a Brunei-British national, who had come into contact with Farid Nemouchi on 16 September last year – weeks before Nawaz Sharif left for Pakistan permanently after ending his exile.

Speaking outside the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Farid Nemouchi’s lawyer Moeen Khan, of Moeen & Co Solicitors, said. “The CPS has confirmed to the court ahead of the start of the trial that the common assault charge against Farid Nemouchi has been discontinued. This is the outcome we wanted to ensure there is no conviction on our client’s name. We were planning to defend our client robustly. We were in touch with the prosecution service throughout and maintained our client was not guilty of the alleged offence. We are glad that the case has been dropped.”

Moeen Khan said the whole incident should never have happened and gone to the stage where it did. “There was a lot of politicisation of the case. We are glad that our client’s ordeal is over. It was stressful for him.”

The guard had pleaded not guilty before the judge and said he will contest the charge of spitting and causing distress to Panzani Cheema. The prosecutor had told the judge that the spitting act had left Panzani Cheema distressed and caused her trauma. The judge had released on bail without any conditions attached. The trial was set to take place this week at the City of London court.

Pakistani media had interviewed Nawaz Sharif a moment before the incident on 16 September. Panzani Cheema had appeared from nowhere and started filming and questioning Mr Sharif as Farid Nemouchi was pulling out to take Nawaz Sharif home, from Hasan Nawaz’s office.

Panzani Cheema had knocked at the window of the car. Farid Nemouchi, driving Nawaz Sharif, lowered the window and said “Hi” to the woman. The woman said “Hi” to Nawaz Sharif and said, “I have heard that you are a very corrupt Pakistani politician.”

Angered by the comment, the driver allegedly spat on her face, rolled up the window, and drove away. The entire incident was caught on Panzani Cheema’s phone – and within hours it went viral.

Farid Nemouchi, Algerian by origin, is a trained martial arts expert who protected Nawaz Sharif in London for nearly three years during the former premier’s last exile in London. If found guilty and convicted, Farid Nemouchi could have been jailed for several months, fined, would have lost his security licence for up to three years. The conviction in such cases stays on the national police database for three years and more.

Appearing with his lawyer outside the court, Farid Nemouchi said he was relieved that the case against him is over and the charges dropped. This reporter understands Panzani Cheema had decided not to pursue the case. The CPS didn’t share details of why it had dropped the case.

Farid Namuchi works for Systematic Security, owned by Ahsan Dar whose brother is a PMLN provincial assembly member from Gujranwala.