Indian court jails powerful politician for embezzling funds

Lalu Prasad Yadav is seen arriving at court in Ranchi, India, in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 24 March 2018
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Indian court jails powerful politician for embezzling funds

PATNA: A powerful Indian politician was sentenced Saturday to 14 years in prison for embezzling 37 million rupees ($570,000) from a state government’s treasury while he was the state’s top elected official.
Lalu Prasad Yadav was convicted of embezzling the money to buy fictitious medicines and cattle fodder while he was chief minister of Bihar state from 1990 to 1997.
Eighteen former Bihar state officials, contractors and suppliers were sentenced in the case to jail terms ranging from 3 1/2 to five years.
Yadav, who already has been convicted three times in related cases, was also fined 6 million rupees ($92,307).
Yadav, 69, who served as India’s railways minister from 2004 to 2009, is barred from contesting elections. Earlier this month, he was shifted to a hospital from a prison after he complained of chest pains in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state.
Corruption is endemic in Indian politics. Judges are now expediting trials of lawmakers accused of crimes including murder, fraud and extortion following a Supreme Court order to reach verdicts within one year in such cases. Indian lawmakers are now barred from running in elections if they are found guilty of offenses carrying a jail term of at least two years.
Yadav has turned his political party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, or the National People’s Party, into a family enterprise, with his wife, two sons and a daughter running it. The daughter is a member of India’s Parliament and the two sons have become lawmakers in Bihar state.
Around 15 percent of Indian lawmakers are facing court trials on criminal charges such as rioting, murder and extortion, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms, an activist group.


Thousands of protesters try to storm Georgia parliament

Updated 2 min 34 sec ago
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Thousands of protesters try to storm Georgia parliament

  • Tens of thousands rallied in Tbilisi, demanding speaker Irakli Kobakhidze step down after a Russian lawmaker addressed the country’s parliament from the speaker’s seat
  • The Russian MP’s presence in Georgia’s parliament prompted outrage in the ex-Soviet nation which in 2008 fought and lost a brief but bloody war with Moscow

TBILISI: Thousands of protesters attempted Thursday to storm the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi, furious that a Russian lawmaker addressed the assembly from the speaker’s seat during an international event.
Demanding that the parliamentary speaker resign, about 10,000 protesters broke riot police cordons to enter the parliament courtyard, an AFP reporter witnessed. Police pushed them back, but several protesters continued trying to enter the building.
Earlier, tens of thousands rallied in central Tbilisi, demanding speaker Irakli Kobakhidze step down after a Russian lawmaker controversially addressed the country’s parliament from the speaker’s seat.
Russian Communist lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov was speaking during an annual meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a forum of lawmakers from predominantly Orthodox countries.
The Russian MP’s presence in fiercely pro-Western Georgia’s parliament prompted outrage in the ex-Soviet nation which in 2008 fought and lost a brief but bloody war with Moscow over breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
A group of Georgian opposition lawmakers demanded the Russian delegation leave the parliament’s plenary chamber.
Many protesters held Georgian and EU flags and placards that read “Russia is an occupier.”
“This is a spontaneous protest by ordinary Georgians, it has not been organized by any political party,” an MP from opposition European Georgia party, Giga Bokeria, told AFP at the rally.
Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili — widely believed to be calling the shots in Georgia as the leader of his ruling Georgian Dream party — said in a statement that he “fully shares the sincere outrage of the Georgian citizens.”
He added that he told the speaker to suspend the session.
“It is unacceptable that a representative of the occupier country chairs a forum in the Georgian parliament,” Ivanishvili said.