Kazakh ex-leader's nephew sentenced to 6 years for embezzlement

FILE PHOTO: Opening of a new mosque in Nur-Sultan

ASTANA (Reuters) - A Kazakh court on Monday sentenced a nephew of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev to six years in prison for embezzlement, the first verdict against a close relative of the once powerful leader of the oil-rich Central Asian nation.

The court found businessman Kairat Satybaldy guilty of embezzling money from state-owned companies.

Nazarbayev resigned as president in 2019 after ruling the ex-Soviet nation for three decades, and endorsed Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as his successor. The former president, however, retained sweeping powers as the head of the country's security council.

Tokayev and Nazarbayev fell out in January when street protests over fuel price hikes escalated into the deadliest bout of political violence in the country's since it gained independence in 1991.

Tokayev took over Nazarbayev's remaining positions and a number of the former's relatives quickly left or were dismissed from senior public sector jobs.

Satybaldy, who was detained in March, has pleaded guilty and repaid over $500 million to the state as part of a plea agreement, the authorities have said.

(Reporting by Tamara Vaal; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Alison Williams)