Bollywood star Salman Khan has been sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of poaching rare antelopes in a 20-year-old poaching case.
The 52-year-old, is one of the top ten best paid actors in the world, was convicted of shooting two blackbuck deer in a western India wildlife preserve in 1998.
Khan was in court for today’s ruling in Jodhpur, Rajasthan state, and is expected to be taken to a local prison while it could take days for his attorneys to appeal the conviction and seek bail.
Heading to jail: Bollywood actor Salman Khan, one of India’s most bankable film stars, has been found guilty of poaching rare antelopes, known as black bucks, in 1998
The body-building actor, best known for his macho roles, claims he did not shoot the blackbucks – an endangered species protected under the Indian Wildlife Act.
Khan has instead accused the Rajasthan state’s forest department of framing him over the blackbuck case.
Hundreds of police were deployed outside the courtroom in Jodhpur to keep back fans during the ruling and sentencing on Thursday.
Four other Bollywood stars – Saif Ali Khan, Sonali Bendre, Tabu and Neelam Kothari – were also accused of partaking in the hunting trip but were acquitted for lack of evidence.
Claiming innocence: The film star has accused the state’s forest department of framing him
Rare: Khan poached Blackbuck antelopes
‘Salman Khan has been convicted under the wildlife protection act and the rest of the stars have been acquitted,’ prosecutor Mahipal Bishnoi told reporters.
No stranger to controversy, Khan was cleared in 2015 of killing a homeless man in a hit-and-run accident in 2002.
That decision is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.
Indian courts can often take years – and sometimes decades – to pronounce verdicts.
But the off-screen drama has done little to dampen his appeal, with Khan one of Bollywood’s biggest draws.
According to Forbes, he made $37 million in yearly earnings to finish second behind Shah Rukh Khan in 2017 Bollywood rankings.
The Bollywood heartthrob’s latest blockbuster ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ (Tiger is alive) collected some $85 million worldwide.