Ex-Shanghai boss jailed for 18 years
Bill Savadove in Shanghai and Al Guo in Tianjin
Chen Liangyu found guilty of graft
Former Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu was jailed for 18 years for corruption yesterday, becoming the highest-ranking Communist Party leader to be jailed for graft on the mainland in a decade.
The Tianjin No 2 Intermediate People's Court declared Chen guilty of taking more than 2.39 million yuan in bribes and abuse of power. The court also stripped him of 300,000 yuan in assets, state media said.
Chen, 61, avoided the death sentence. The court said: 'Seeing that he expressed regret for all crimes and bribery, and he could return the illicit money, [the court] took circumstances into consideration and adopted lighter punishment.'
Shanghai's top leader fell from grace after he was linked to misappropriation of social security funds in the city's biggest corruption case. More than 25 government officials and company executives were implicated, with so far one having been given a suspended death sentence and several jailed for life.
Chen's lawyer said his client had not decided whether to appeal.
'I'll listen to 'Old Chen's' own ideas whether to appeal or not,' Gao Zicheng said. He said Chen's health was good.
State television last night showed Chen wearing a suit jacket and flanked by two court officers. Outside the courthouse, police pushed more than a hundred onlookers away to prevent them from catching a glimpse of Chen after the 40-minute court session.
The case was widely seen as helping President Hu Jintao eliminate a key member of the 'Shanghai Gang' of current and former leaders from the city, which included former president Jiang Zemin .
Russell Leigh Moses, a Beijing-based political analyst, said the ousting of Chen marked a shift of power back to the centre and away from local governments. 'It's less about malfeasance and more about how policy gets made. There was a spirited debate about power, and he [Chen] lost that,' he said.
The last member of the party's top-level Politburo to be jailed for graft was former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong , who was sentenced to 16 years' jail in 1998. He was reportedly released early.
Among the highest-level officials to be executed for corruption was former National People's Congress vice-chairman Cheng Kejie, who was put to death in 2000 for accepting bribes. The former food and drug safety chief, Zheng Xiaoyu , was also executed last year for accepting bribes.
The Tianjin court listed a history of abuses by Chen from 1988 to his detention in 2006 - most of his political career. The court held a one-day trial for Chen last month.
Among his crimes, Chen allowed 1 billion yuan in social security funds to be lent out to companies, the court said. Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng has said previously that more than 3 billion yuan was siphoned off.
Chen used his position to benefit companies in return for bribes to himself and relatives and helped his brother obtain land. He also allowed a stake in the Shanghai-Hangzhou expressway to be transferred to businessman Zhang Rongkun at below-market prices. Zhang was jailed for 19 years on Monday.
Additional reporting by Lilian Zhang