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Yuan

Jail for writer who tackled disgraced mayor

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am

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A controversial writer who launched a smear campaign against disgraced Shenzhen mayor Xu Zongheng was jailed for 15 years for swindling eight people out of 3.45 million yuan (HK$4.1 million), state media reported yesterday.

Beijing's Second Intermediate People's Court convicted Shi Dongbin last week of conning a former head of the Civil Aviation Administration's northern bureau out of 850,000 yuan, a party boss at Shenzhen's land development centre out of 730,000 yuan, and a deputy director of the Bank of Beijing out of 6,000 yuan. All three had wanted Shi to help them get promotions.

He was also convicted of swindling between 100,000 yuan and 1.2 million yuan from five businessmen who wanted him to help get approval for development plans, buy vehicles cheaply or advance their interests in other ways.

The court said Shi had fulfilled none of those promises and that testimony from plaintiffs and witnesses proved that Shi did not have the personal ties with state and regional leaders that he claimed.

The eight plaintiffs are expected to be given compensation. The court impounded Shi's villa in Beijing, an apartment in Guangzhou and a Mercedes-Benz car.

Shi denied the charges and claimed he was framed. The Beijing Times cited court sources saying that Shi claimed he had never promised to help the plaintiffs and that they had given him money to swap currencies, as gifts or to repay debts.

The newspaper reported that Shi had appealed and the case was now being handled by Beijing Higher People's Court.

Shi, 61 and originally from Shanxi, became a household name after he used his blog to detail corruption allegations against the former Shenzhen mayor after Xu was taken away for questioning in a graft investigation in June 2009. He claimed he and Xu had once been friends and that the former mayor had wanted to advance his career by currying favour with Shi. He said Xu later ordered police to detain him in 2006 when he refused to help Xu bribe state leaders.

In a widely circulated blog, Shi wrote: 'Xu has climbed up the power ladder really fast. He has gathered a bunch of henchmen around him, and these people have helped him collect bribes and build connections. His sister-in-law, in particular, is one who represents him in these shady dealings.'

State media reported rumours that Xu retaliated against Shi when he discovered that the writer did not have any influence with the country's top leaders.

Xu went on trial at the Zhengzhou Intermediate People's Court in Henan last week after a 22-month graft investigation, accused of taking 33.18 million yuan in bribes between 2001 and 2009.

Shi was arrested by Beijing police in August 2009, two months after Xu's graft probe began.

Shi is also famous for posting pictures he took with senior officials. He told the Southern Weekly he interviewed at least three Communist Party chairmen or general secretaries, one party vice-chairman, five Politburo Standing Committee members and nine Politburo members such as former party secretary Hu Yaobang, former president Hua Guofeng, and former party secretary Zhao Ziyang.

At least nine top leaders' families have publicly denied Shi interviewed the officials and accused Shi of fabricating stories about them.