Beleaguered former railways minister and alleged philanderer Liu Zhijun asked lawyers to help him escape the death penalty in his upcoming trial, while his wife described him as a good man who came home for dinner every night, mainland media reports said.
Lawyers Gao Zicheng and Qi Xiaohong were approached by Liu's family to defend him, The Beijing Times reported yesterday.
“He asked me to guarantee that he would not face the death penalty, but I couldn’t do that,” Liu’s family lawyer Gao Zicheng was quoted by the Beijing Times newspaper as saying.
"He wanted me to guarantee that he would escape a death penalty, which of course I could not," the newspaper quoted Gao as saying. Liu finally appointed Qian Lieyang , as designated by the authorities.
Liu has been officially charged with taking bribes and abusing power, and slated for trial at a Beijing court. State media said the amount of money involved in the case was "huge" and the circumstances "very serious", without providing further details.
Liu is accused of taking bribes worth 60 million yuan (HK$74 million) linked to rail construction projects, the paper said. Under mainland law, the death penalty can be given for accepting bribes over 100,000 yuan.
Liu allegedly accepted about 40 million yuan from Shanxi businesswoman Ding Shumiao , in return for her winning bids worth 3 billion yuan for projects involving the mainland's massive high-speed railway, the report said.
Ding also reportedly arranged for Liu to have sex with young women, including stars from popular TV series Dream of the Red Chamber, in which her firm had a 50 million yuan stake. Caixin Century Weekly said in August that the then-Ministry of Railways - now dismantled - had listed in an internal briefing six major crimes it accused Liu of committing, including serious economic crimes, the keeping of mistresses and perpetrating political and moral wrongdoings.
But Qi, the lawyer who met Liu last year in Qincheng Prison, which holds officials above vice-ministerial level, said Liu's wife had defended him, The Beijing News reported yesterday.
"His wife said he seldom went out [for social engagements] at night and, on the evening he was detained, he was at home rather than in some entertainment venue, as had been reported," Qi said.
Caixin said earlier that, in February 2011, Lui was discovered with two sex workers in a five-star hotel in Nanjing.