ASTANA, Kazakhstan–Kazakhstan has sentenced former Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov to 10 years in prison, a court said Saturday, the first time a former official of such stature will serve jail time in the country. On Friday, a court in the industrial city of Karaganda found Akhmetov guilty on four corruption-related charges including embezzlement and abuse of power, in a huge case involving more than 20 defendants in the energy-rich state. State television showed Akhmetov, 57, who filled the prime minister’s role in 2012-14, begging for mercy from President Nursultan Nazarbayev while maintaining his innocence. A total of 17 defendants including a former mayor of Karaganda were handed lesser criminal and administrative punishments, while three were acquitted, the court said in a statement. Most of the defendants were state officials.
Graft remains endemic in the vast oil-producing country, which ranked 126th of 174 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index last year.