The former Chongqing Communist Party official embroiled in an unfolding sex-tape scandal yesterday in court retracted his confession over alleged bribes, saying he and the woman in a video were genuinely in love.
Lei Zhengfu, the former party secretary of the municipality's Beibei district, who was fired after the video went viral online in November, went on trial at the Chongqing No1 Intermediate People's Court, accused of accepting 3.16 million yuan (HK$4 million) in bribes.
Lei questioned the reliability of witness testimony and said his confession had been made when he was suffering from high blood pressure, media reports said.
Chinese Business News said the court would deliver its verdict later. Lei could face the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty.
The 55-year-old argued that he did not think most of the money stated in the prosecutor's charges amounted to bribery.
Lei said he and Zhao Hongxia , the woman who appeared in the sex video with him, were in a loving relationship. The prosecution and earlier media reports said she was hired by developers seeking favours in bids for construction projects.
Lei also told the court that Zhao had tried to trap him into marriage by pretending she was pregnant. He said he rejected her and sought help from her boss, Xiao Ye, to mediate. In return, Lei helped Xiao borrow 3 million yuan from another businessman, according to media reports.
Lei and his lawyer said Lei was just an intermediary and Xiao should be held responsible for not paying back most of the money. But the prosecutor said the money was, in effect, a bribe. Both Zhao and Xiao have also been charged, along with four others, with allegedly blackmailing two officials, including Lei, by secretly filming their sexual encounters. Xinhua said the "criminal extortion ring" would go on trial in another court in Chongqing today.
Xinhua reported earlier that the case of another official implicated in the sex-tape scandal, Nanan district party secretary Xia Zeliang, would be handled separately. Xia allegedly provided the poison that Gu Kailai , the wife of former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai , used to murder British businessman Neil Heywood in November 2011 and offered her other assistance. Bo allegedly helped cover up the sex scandal, which happened in 2009.
Lei is among a group of more than 20 government officials and executives from state-owned companies in the municipality who have been dismissed for appearing in separate, secretly filmed sex videos.
Zhu Ruifeng, the whistle-blower who uploaded screenshots from the sex videos, said he was not happy because Chongqing authorities were still trying to cover up the matter.