April 7 (UPI) -- Ecuador's high court on Tuesday sentenced former President Rafael Correa to eight years in prison on bribery and corruption charges.
A panel of three judges at the National Court of Ecuador convicted Correa, 57, and 19 other senior officials on charges they accepted $8 million in bribes in exchange for public contracts and used the funds on political campaigns between 2012 and 2016.
The court also moved to ban Correa from holding office for 25 years.
Correa will have two opportunities to appeal the conviction and has repeatedly denied the charges. He said he was a victim of political persecution as he was seeking office in 2021 after leaving the presidency in 2017 and vowing to retire from politics.
On Tuesday, Correa wrote on Twitter that his political rivals, including Ecuador's current president, Lenin Moreno, "conduct the worst and fiercest political persecution in the region."
During his trial, the prosecution said Correa created a multitiered criminal structure to collect payoffs, comparing his tactics to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and recommending the maximum sentence of eight years.
In 2018, Judge Daniella Camacho of the National Justice Court of Ecuador delivered a request to extradite Correa over his alleged involvement in a failed plot to kidnap a political rival Fernando Balda in 2012.