Ding Shumiao, tycoon linked to ex-rail chief, stands trial

Shanxi tycoon Ding Shumiao described at trial as top financial backer for Liu Zhijun, colluding with him on 185b yuan in ministry projects

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2013, 2:35pm

Ding Shumiao, a businesswoman accused of colluding with former railways chief Liu Zhijun over projects worth more than 185 billion yuan (HK$233 billion), stood trial on charges of bribery and illegal business activities in Beijing.

Wearing a pink pullover, Ding , who is also known as Ding Yuxin, appeared weak in photographs and video released by state media. The 58-year-old woman is in poor health, suffering from hypertension and heart disease. She could not stand firmly and was allowed to get seated while the prosecution read out the charges.

The judge halted proceedings briefly in the afternoon when her blood pressure rose sharply, and an ambulance was on stand-by outside the Beijing No2 Intermediate People's Court.

Ding's lawyer had earlier said she would plead not guilty. The trial ended and the verdict will be announced later.

The tycoon was portrayed as a key financier behind the fallen minister at his trial in June.

She built up a network of connections with rail officials, steering bids for 57 projects worth more than 185 billion yuan to 23 companies between 2007 and 2010, prosecutors said yesterday, according to statements released on the court's Weibo account.

She took more than two billion yuan in "middleman" fees through these transactions.

Ding solicited railway freight quotas for her companies through her connection with Liu, and gave him 49 million yuan in bribes between 2008 to 2010, the court heard. Forty-four million yuan was intended for a scheme to get one of Liu's colleagues out of jail, and the rest was for his plan for an ally to take over his ministry role when he won promotion, court documents said. Both schemes failed.

Ding is accused of giving more than 40 million yuan in bribes to Fan Zengyu , a former official with the State Council Leading Group of Poverty Alleviation and Development, in 38 payments between 2008 and 2010. In exchange, Fan allegedly promoted her reputation as a philanthropist.

Ding had agreed with all of the prosecutors' statements, the court said. She had done things for Liu to thank him for his favours, she admitted, and said Fan had asked for the bribes she gave him.

Her lawyer Hao Chunli earlier told media her client would plead not guilty. "The 49 million yuan in bribes to Liu Zhijun was taken by certain fraudsters. At worst Ding should only be charged for attempted bribery," Hao said.

But the court that heard Liu's case said the payment was a bribe. It formed the bulk of the 64.6 million yuan Liu was found guilty of taking while overseeing the expansion of the high-speed rail system. He was given a suspended death sentence.

Hao also disputed the nature of the payments made to Fan, denying they had been illegal. "The charges on illegal business activities were also not accurate," she said.

Ding started out as an egg vendor in Shanxi province in the early 1980s. She struck gold in the late 1990s when she moved into centralised freight train services after she met Liu, who was then the railways vice-minister.