Former Mongolian President Nambar Enkhbayar has been sentenced to four years in jail for corruption, a charge he dubbed “groundless”.
On Thursday, a Mongolian court found him guilty of misappropriating gifts intended for a monastery and illegally privatising a hotel 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, 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.
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.
Enkhbayar’s MPRP joined forces with another party to form the Justice Coalition, which in June won 11 of 76 parliamentary seats, considered a relative success for the new coalition.
They have agreed to co-operate closely with the DP, which won the largest share in parliament with 31 seats, while the MPP won 25.
The election results are still being contested, however, with charges of vote-buying and other disputes.
Accusations of vote-rigging in 2008 parliamentary elections sparked riots that left four people dead.
The MPP and DP 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.