Biathlon-Former IBU president sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges

(Reuters) -Former International Biathlon Union (IBU) president Anders Besseberg has been sentenced to three years and one month in prison for aggravated corruption, Norwegian prosecutors said on Friday.

The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Okokrim) had indicted Besseberg last year for offences which took place between 2009 and 2018.

Their charges included the 78-year-old Besseberg -- who was the IBU chief from 1992 to 2018 -- accepting bribes in the form of watches, hunting trips and trophies, prostitutes and a leased car which he used from 2011 to 2018 in Norway.

"The verdict is an important signal that corruption is uncovered and prosecuted, also in the international sports federations," senior public prosecutor Marianne Djupesland said in a statement.

"International top-level sports generate large revenues and handle large assets. The federations are managing large assets and make important decisions that affect both athletes and businesses.

"We therefore do hope that this verdict will have preventive effects."

Besseberg had denied any wrongdoing and said he would appeal.

"I am of course disappointed and surprised by the verdict. I am appealing the verdict on the spot," Besseberg was quoted as saying by Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

Besseberg's relationship with Russia was also a part of the verdict that was read out, with the watches and hunting trips primarily funded by Russian officials.

"... in light of the timeline and documents referenced, as well as witness testimonies, the court does not doubt that he has acted in favour of Russia both in words and deeds," the verdict said.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said in a statement that they welcomed the guilty verdict.

"It shows once again that WADA will always act to do what is right for clean sport," WADA said.

"The verdict should be seen as a warning to other administrators who threaten the integrity of sport."

IBU was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru and Tommy Lund in GdanskEditing by Christian Radnedge)