A former defence minister of Venezuela has been sentenced to almost eight years in prison for corruption while he was in office.

The British Broadcasting Corporation reports that Mr. Raul Baduel was a key Hugo Chavez ally, and played an important role in defence of the president when he was temporarily ousted in a 2002 coup.

But after the two fell out in 2007, Baduel was arrested on corruption charges.

He has also been banned from ever holding political office again.

Baduel was one of the four founding members of President Chavez's revolutionary movement, MVR-200.

But, more than that, he was the key military man who returned Mr Chavez to power after a short-lived coup against the socialist leader in 2002.

Chavez values loyalty like no other trait in his inner circle, and responded by making Mr Baduel his defence minister.

But in 2007, while President Chavez was campaigning to change the constitution to allow him to stand for office beyond the limit of two terms, his former confidant and friend deserted the party and denounced the campaign.

He said that Mr Chavez was attempting to usurp the constitutional powers of the Venezuelan people, and wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times entitled Why I Parted Ways with Chavez.

Several months later, the retired general was arrested on corruption charges, accused of misappropriating state funds while he was defence minister.