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Former minister convicted of graft

Lalu Prasad Yadav faces jail time for involvement in US$9.5 billion 'fodder scam'

Former minister convicted of graft

Supporters gather around Lalu Prasad Yadav (center) after the verdict.

A special court in India convicted and jailed a former federal minister on Monday for his involvement in a long-running corruption case.

Lalu Prasad Yadav, a former railways minister was found guilty of corruption and conspiracy for playing a leading role in what has become known as the “fodder scam”, which first came to light in 1996. Some 43 other people were also convicted.

Yadev, who is the president of the regional Rashtriya Janata Dal (national people’s front) Party, was accused of embezzling state funds.

Yadev denied the charges, saying he had been framed.

Prosecutors said up to US$9.5 billion of government money was used to pay fictitious bills for medicines and cattle fodder while he was serving as chief minister for Bihar state.

The former railways minister was immediately taken to a prison in Ranchi, the capital of eastern Jharkhand state, to await sentencing on Thursday.

“He is likely to be served with 2-3 years of imprisonment. But we will challenge the verdict," Yadev’s lawyer, Rajniti Prasad, told by phone from Ranchi.

Following his conviction Yadev becomes the first politician to be kicked out of parliament after the Supreme Court recently ruled that parliamentarians or legislators lose their seats for a criminal conviction.

The ruling also means he is likely to face a ban on contesting elections for six years, lawyers say.

An executive order, or ordinance, issued by the government last week to try and protect convicted MPs from this ruling was withdrawn after being criticized by senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who called the move “nonsense”.

It was also questioned by Indian president Pranab Mukherjee who refused to endorse it.

The government had argued it was necessary since up to one third of the MPs in India’s Lower House have criminal charges leveled against them, according to media reports.

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