New details have emerged about how disgraced railways chief Liu Zhijun tried to bribe his way up the ladder with the help of a female intermediary to become a state leader.
The revelations appeared in an early draft of the court indictment against Liu, who was convicted of corruption and handed a suspended death sentence in July. The details were left out of the final draft and not publicised.
Liu had set his sights on being a state councillor or vice-premier, one rank higher than his ministerial position.
The document gives a rare glimpse into rampant money-for-power deals on the mainland. It is the first time an official at such a senior level has confessed to trying to further his career through bribery.
It also raises questions about who Liu tried to bribe, given that he was already a powerful politician and that only a handful of people could have helped him.
The revelations emerged yesterday as Ding Shumiao - a businesswoman who was widely believed to be Liu's secret financier - went on trial for bribery and illegal business gains involving more than 2 billion yuan (HK$2.5 billion).
During Liu's trial, Ding was named as the person who offered most of the bribes to the former railways minister.
Some of the money Ding gave to Liu was used to "create conducive conditions for [Liu to have] a job change", according to the document studied by the South China Morning Post and also by two sources with direct knowledge of the case.
Claims that Liu was trying to buy his way to the top began to surface immediately after the 60-year-old was taken away by the Communist Party's corruption investigators in February 2011.
Another man, Fan Zengyu , was arrested with him.
The court heard yesterday that Ding bribed Fan, a former bureau director of the Poverty Alleviation Office under the State Council, to the tune of 40 million yuan because she wanted to "boost her image as a generous philanthropist".
But sources said the money was paid as part of the carefully designed plan for Liu to advance his career. Liu hoped to first secure a party chief position at a local province - a prerequisite for him to move further up the ladder, according to the sources and the preliminary indictment.
Fan, 50, is a relatively low-level official but has long experience working in the Poverty Alleviation Office.
He is also charged with corruption and his trial is pending.
One of the sources said: "Although Fan is a junior official, he is responsible for managing foreign assets of the office.
"That is one of the most lucrative positions. It shows that Fan is trusted by [more senior] leaders."
He said Fan was most likely only a middleman acting on a more senior official's behalf.
"The money certainly goes to somebody behind Fan. He is in no position to help Liu's career," the source said.
Beijing attaches great importance to the Poverty Alleviation Office, which is seen as a key organ for social stability.
Fan was not the only official bribed by Ding at Liu's behest.
Earlier, it was revealed that Ding had given 49 million yuan to Liu from 2008 to 2010.
This included 44 million yuan Ding paid to try to secure the release from jail of a former subordinate of Liu. It also included five million yuan to install one of Liu's allies as the new railways minister once Liu secured his promotion. Both attempts failed.
In eight years as railways minister, Liu oversaw a massive expansion of the mainland's high-speed railway network.
In court it was revealed he had interfered in the bidding for at least 53 projects worth a total of nearly 175 billion yuan between 2007 and 2010.
The expansion was marked by numerous problems, including the accumulation of more than 2.6 trillion yuan in debt and a high-speed train crash in July 2011 that claimed at least 40 lives.