Graft lands top Indian official in jail
An Indian court has sentenced the top elected official of the southern state of Tamil Nadu to four years in prison for corruption in a case that was filed 18 years ago.
The judge held Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram “guilty of amassing wealth disproportionate to known sources of her income,” prosecutor G Bhavani Singh told reporters outside the court earlier on Saturday.
She was sentenced to four years in jail a few hours later. NDTV, a private television channel, reported that Jayalalithaa had been taken for a mandatory medcial check-up before being sent to prison.
Jayalalithaa would lose her position as the chief minister since Indian law prohibits any poliltician from holding public office after being sentenced to more than two years in jail.
Jayalalithaa was charged with amassing illegal wealth of at least $10m in 1997, when police seized assets including 28 kilogrammes of gold, 750 pairs of shoes and more than 10,000 saris in a raid on her home.
Prosecutors said her assets, which reportedly included two 1,000-acre estates in in her home-state of Tamil Nadu, were vastly disproportionate to her earnings during her first term as chief minister between 1991 to 1996.
“I think it’s very difficult for her to escape it because the facts are very clear. She claimed a salary of one rupee per year and ultimately amassed in 5 years, 66 crores [1 crore equals 10 milion]. How is that possible? So therefore it is an open and shut case and she is likely to be convicted and ceased to be chief minister,” said Subramanian Swamy, the leader of rival Bharatiya Janata Party and the main complainant in the case, before the court ruling.
The 66-year-old politician, a former film star who became one of the country’s most colourful and controversial politicians, enjoys huge popularity in Tamil Nadu, a manufacturing hub. Jayaram’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party emerged as third biggest force in the national parliament after winning 37 of the 39 parliamentary seats in the state in this year’s general election.
Indian politicians are rarely convicted for corruption and even more rarely end up spending time in jail.