Former drugs aide spared the bullet for now

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 July, 2007, 12:00am

A former aide of disgraced drugs watchdog chief Zheng Xiaoyu was given a suspended death sentence yesterday when a Beijing court convicted and sentenced five drug officials for corruption.

A former senior Yunnan transport official extradited from Singapore also faced court yesterday as the government rushed to settle major corruption cases ahead of this autumn's 17th Party Congress.

A Beijing court sentenced Cao Wenzhuang, a former drug registration department head of the State Food and Drug Administration, to death with a two-year reprieve for taking bribes and dereliction of duty.

Such a sentence is often commuted to life imprisonment.

Cao was convicted of accepting 2.4 million yuan in bribes from two pharmaceutical companies between December 2003 and September 2005. He was also found guilty of dereliction of duty for allowing fake drugs to be given approval during his tenure.

The court said the death penalty was warranted, given the 'huge bribes involved, his refusal to confess during the first hearing and his reluctance to return the money'. But he was given a two-year reprieve for helping investigations into other cases.

Earlier reports said the evidence provided by Cao and other administration officials led to the investigation of Zheng, who was sentenced to death in May.

Cao is one of Zheng 's former secretaries and he has been under investigation since January.

Another of Zheng's former secretaries, Hao Heping, was sentenced to 15 years in November.

Xinhua also reported that four officials involved in drug supervision were convicted of corruption yesterday, including Wang Guorong , former secretary-general of the China Pharmacopoeia Committee - a think-tank of medical experts in charge of setting drug standards - who was sentenced to life in prison.

Also sentenced to 13- to 15-year prison terms were fellow committee official Li Zhiyong and administration officials Lu Aiying and Ma Teng .

Meanwhile, Hu Xing , former deputy director of the Yunnan Provincial Transport Bureau, went on trial yesterday in Kunming for abusing his position to take more than 40 million yuan in bribes, as well as other charges.

He was captured in Singapore in February.