An Ottawa businessman has been sentenced to three years in prison for his part in a plan to bribe Indian government officials – making him the first individual ever sentenced under Canada's Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act.

Nazir Karigar, 67, was found guilty last fall for his role in an attempt to arrange payments to bribe Indian officials so that his company could secure a $100-million contract to provide security technology to Air India.

Superior Court Justice Charles Hackland said he wanted to make clear in his sentencing that bribery is not just part of doing business overseas, and that attempts at bribing foreign officials need to be treated as seriously as the same offence would be in Canada.

Hackland noted in his sentencing that Karigar was the mastermind of the sophisticated bribery scheme and acted with a sense of entitlement.

Prosecutors had asked for a four-year prison term, urging the judge to choose a sentence that would dissuade other Canadians contemplating similar bribery schemes.

Karigar’s defence team sought a conditional sentence to be served in the community.

Hackland said he took into consideration that Karigar appeared to be a respectable businessman before the events. As well, he noted that the former exec was 67, and not in good health.

Only a handful of companies have been convicted under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act in the past decade. All pleaded guilty and paid fines.

This conviction sets a precedent for the sentencing of individuals convicted under the Act and could have implications for three former SNC Lavalin employees facing similar charges.