Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

China to prosecute former senior spy chief for corruption

Ma Jian, who ran counter-espionage at the State Security Ministry, tried to hide wealth, use his power to help relatives’ businesses and interfere with the judiciary, Communist Party says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 6:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 11:36pm

China will prosecute a former senior spy chief for bribery and abuse of power, the Communist Party said in a brief statement on Friday.

Ma Jian led counter-espionage operations at the Ministry of State Security, the vast secretive intelligence agency that monitors both citizens and foreigners in China.

His detention, which the South China Morning Post first reported in January 2015, led to revelations about massive abuses of power and political jockeying within the intelligence agency.

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According to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, Ma had “seriously violated political discipline and political rules”, using a phrase that suggested his offences went beyond the typical embezzlement.

He had “confronted investigations by the commission and tried to transfer and hide financial possessions involved in his case”, the statement said.

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Ma failed to report ownership of properties; made travel documents for family members; used his position to help relatives’ businesses; used his influence to interfere in judicial activities; and took “a huge amount” of bribes, it said.

He failed to “restrain himself or stop his wrongdoings even after the 18th party congress” in 2012 when Chinese President Xi Jinping assumed power. Ma has been expelled from the party, the most severe intraparty punishment, the statement said.

As the Post reported earlier, Ma was believed to have had ties to Li You, the former chief executive of the Founder Group, a conglomerate with extensive business lines, including a securities brokerage. Li was jailed for 4 ½ years last month and fined 750 million yuan (US$108 million or HK$836 million) for insider trading, according to a court ruling. Li also had ties with Ling Jihua, a former presidential aide now serving a life sentence for graft.

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Another prominent businessman with ties to Ma was Guo Wengui, the chairman of Beijing Zenith Holding, the developer of a landmark project beside Beijing’s National Stadium. According to a report carried on the Prism news portal run by Tencent, Ma helped steer the project Guo’s way.

When Liu Zhihua, a former Beijing deputy mayor, refused to give the project to Guo, Ma secured a sex tape in 2006, which led to Liu’s arrest and cleared the path for Zenith.

Guo left the country around the time Ma was placed under investigation. Guo told the Post in April last year he was in the United States for “medical treatment”. He denied any wrongdoing and vowed to return to mainland China to clear his name.

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Over the years, speculation has been rife that officials within the State Security Ministry engaged in illegal business deals and extortion rackets. There have also been claims they played a part in political power struggles, illegally wiretapping mainland leaders at the behest of various factions.

Ma’s removal makes him one of the highest-ranking national security officials to be investigated since the downfall of Zhou Yongkang, the former security tsar, and suggests a wave of reshufflings at the agency is coming.