COURTS

Woman in Chongqing sex scandal denies extortion

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 June, 2013, 3:48am

The woman at the centre of a sex scandal in which more than 20 government or state enterprise officials in Chongqing have been implicated denied extortion charges at her two-day trial, which finished yesterday.

Zhao Hongxia also denied a claim by a former local Communist Party official, Lei Zhengfu - who appeared with her in a secretly filmed sex video - that the pair had been in a loving relationship.

She went on trial on Wednesday at the municipality's Yubei District People's Court along with five other defendants charged with extortion in a blackmail scheme.

The authorities said earlier that the trial would not be open to the public because of privacy concerns, as the sex videos might be presented as evidence.

The case sparked a public outcry after screen shots of the footage went viral on the internet in November.

The court did not reach a verdict yesterday.

The prosecutor said the six defendants obtained 5 million yuan from 2008 to 2009 from Lei and another official by blackmailing them with secretly filmed sexual encounters.

Zhang Zhiyong, Zhao's lawyer, told China News Service that her 31-year-old client had rebutted 55-year-old Lei's earlier defence that they were in a loving relationship.

"It's quite obvious that they were not in a relationship based on their age gap and social status," Zhang said. "Lei might have said that to excuse himself from the bribery charges."

Lei, who went on trial on Wednesday on bribery charges, told the court at his trial that he and Zhao were in a relationship. But the prosecutor said Zhao was hired by developers seeking favours in bids for construction projects and later received 40,000 yuan as a reward.

Lei could face the death penalty if found guilty, while Zhao and the other defendants face up to 15 years' imprisonment.