Mongolian court jails ex-president for corruption

A court in Mongolia has jailed former president Nambar Enkhbayar for four years after finding him guilty of corruption, charges that he has called politically motivated.

Enkhbayar, 54, served as prime minister and then president for almost a decade until losing office in 2009. He was arrested in April in a dawn raid broadcast live on national television.

On Thursday, a Mongolian court found him guilty of misappropriating gifts intended for a monastery, along with other corruption charges, in a hearing broadcast to the nation.

The court originally sentenced him to seven years, but reduced it by three years, citing an amnesty law.

Enkhbayar, who was barred from running in Mongolia's June parliamentary elections, called the charges "groundless".

"I served the posts of president, prime minister and speaker of parliament. I never thought I would be accused groundlessly," Enkhbayar said in his testimony. His lawyer said they would appeal the verdict.

Enkhbayar formed a breakaway Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party last year, splitting from the ruling Mongolian People's Party (MPP), the oldest in the country which held power during the Soviet era.

For much of the past decade the MPP shared power with the Democratic Party, but the latter left the coalition in January to prepare for June elections.

Both parties have pledged to improve the distribution of wealth across the vast nation, which covers an area three times the size of France but has a population of just 2.8 million people.

Mongolia is ranked 120 out of 182 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by the watchdog group Transparency International, tying with Bangladesh, Iran and Kazakhstan.

Mongolia is one of Asia's poorest nations but has increasingly lured foreign investors with its rich deposits of copper, gold, uranium, silver and oil.

Its economy grew 17.3 percent last year and foreign investment quadrupled to $5 billion.

But poorer Mongolians complain the benefits of the boom are not reaching them, that the elites have grown more corrupt and foreign mining companies receive exceedingly favourable deals.

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