Sun, Sep 07, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Son of Indian arms dealer sentenced to six years in prison

AP , NEW DELHI

The son of a wealthy Indian arms dealer was sentenced on Friday to five years in prison after being found guilty of hitting and killing six people, including three police officers, with his car more than nine years ago, his attorney said.

Sanjeev Nanda, 30, who pleaded innocent, was convicted on manslaughter charges in what is known as the “BMW case.”

The high-profile case has been seen as a test of whether India’s judicial system, which has a long history of favoring the well-connected, is willing to hold the wealthy accountable.

Judge Vinod Kumar sentenced three other defendants to prison terms ranging from six months to one year on charges of destroying evidence.

“This is a harsh penalty,” said Nanda’s attorney, Prem Kumar, adding that he would appeal the verdict in New Delhi’s High Court.

However, Ved Marwah, a former police commissioner and a prominent commentator on criminal affairs, said Nanda should consider himself lucky that he didn’t get the maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

“After the accident, these young people didn’t have the human consideration of taking the injured to hospital. They left them to die there and they very deliberately tried to get rid of all the evidence,” Marwah said.

Nanda is the son of private arms dealer Suresh Nanda and a grandson of former Indian naval chief S.M. Nanda. At the time of the crash, Nanda was home for the holidays from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Prosecutors said Nanda and two of his friends were returning from a party at 4:30am on Jan. 10, 1999, when their BMW, speeding at roughly 135kph, crashed into seven people standing along an empty street. A witness reportedly saw the men stop, examine the damage to their car, then speed off. Three policemen and three laborers died.

Nanda and the two friends, Siddharta Gupta and Manik Kapoor, were classmates at an elite New Delhi private school.

Prosecutors said Gupta and two of Nanda’s employees washed blood from the car, and the three were convicted of destroying evidence.

Kapoor, who was also charged with destroying evidence, was acquitted.

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