Indian court convicts Tamil Nadu chief minister for graft

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Saturday convicted Jayalalithaa Jayaram, a former film star turned powerful politician, in a corruption case that has dragged on for nearly two decades.

The judge “held Jayalalithaa guilty of amassing wealth disproportionate to known sources of her income,” prosecutor G. Bhavani Singh told reporters outside the court where the popular chief minister of southern Tamil Nadu state was convicted.

Jayalalithaa was charged with amassing illegal wealth in 1997, when police seized assets including 28 kilos (62 pounds) 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 the lush tropical state she ran, were vastly disproportionate to her earnings during her first term as chief minister, which ran from 1991 to 1996.

The discovery was in stark contrast to the image cultivated by the 66-year-old politician, who is known to her fans simply as “Amma” (Mother), and who enjoyed acclaim in her youth as a movie actress.Now on her third term as chief minister, she has high levels of popular support in Tamil Nadu, a manufacturing hub and one of India´s most prosperous states.Singh said the judge may sentence Jayalalithaa later Saturday and that she could face up to seven years in jail.

Indian media speculated that Jayalalithaa, who runs the third largest party in India´s national parliament, would have to resign as chief minister after the verdict regardless of the sentence.Three close allies including her nephew and sister-in-law were also found guilty, Singh said outside the court in Bangalore.

All four defendants were present when the judge delivered the verdict in a makeshift courtroom set up at the main jail in Bangalore, India´s southern technology hub.The case was held in Bangalore rather than Tamil Nadu for security reasons.

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