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Future chief of India's Tamil Nadu state jailed for four years

A new Delhi court has found VK Sasikala guilty of possessing "disproportionate assets." She is now blocked from running for office for 10 years.

India's Supreme Court sentenced the incoming leader of Tamil Nadu state to a four-year prison sentence on Tuesday. VK Sasikala was found guilty of corruption in a case that dates back to the 1990s. The verdict will prevent her from taking up her post, and bans her from seeking elected office for another decade.

Prosecutors successfully argued that Sasikala and her mentor, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, had possessed "disproportionate assets" that could not possibly have been obtained with their public salaries. The pair owned bungalows, luxury cars, tea estates, gold and silver, and thousands of saris.

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Jayalalithaa was a successful actor before turning to politics in the early '90s as a member of the regional AIADMK party. First elected as chief minister of the prosperous Tamil Nadu state in 1991, she was reelected four times before passing away in December 2016.

Power struggle

Sasikala, a former video cassette saleswoman who initially impressed Jayalalithaa by making a campaign video, emerged from the background as a low-profile adviser to mount a successful bid within AIADMK to take over from interim leader O Panneerselvam.

Panneerselvam, who has been trying to block Sasikala's rise, will now stay in power in the "Detroit of Asia," so called for its popularity among foreign firms for locating manufacturing plants.

Sasikala's niece and nephew were also sentenced to four years as part of the corruption case. The now-disgraced politician was not present at the court in New Delhi, but has been ordered to present herself to police immediately and begin her jail term.

es/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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