The trial of the former vice-minister of public security, Li Jizhou, began in Beijing yesterday as Fujian courts handed down three more death sentences to smugglers involved in the Xiamen Yuanhua smuggling scandal, the nation's largest graft case. Li, also the former deputy head of the nation's anti-smuggling taskforce, is the most senior official to go on trial for alleged involvement in the smuggling of cars, oil, cigarettes and other goods worth US$6.4 billion (HK$49.7 billion), costing the treasury US$3.6 billion in lost duties. Li went on trial in Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court accused of taking 'huge bribes' from Lai Changxing, whom China claims led the smuggling scheme, and of using his power to block probes into it, Xinhua said. The smuggling ring's influence was said to have reached high into the ranks of the Government and Communist Party, which also expelled Li from its ranks, Xinhua said. Li's trial is believed to have been delayed from late last year pending the resolution of attempts to extradite Lai, who is in detention in Canada on immigration charges and is fighting extradition attempts by the Chinese Government. In Fujian, the coastal province at the centre of the scandal, courts in five cities also sentenced three people to death. Another defendant who surrendered was given a suspended death sentence. Another six people were sentenced to life imprisonment in the second batch of trials, Xinhua said. Those condemned to death included Chen Yanxin, the former general manager of Xiamen Oil Company, for allegedly colluding with Lai in smuggling large quantities of oil products into China. Another death sentence was handed out to Wang Yandi, who helped Lai smuggle cigarettes and cars worth 1.8 billion yuan (HK$1.7 billion), Xinhua said. Another 119 people were given fixed prison sentences, it said, without giving details. Last Friday, authorities executed seven men who were among 11 sentenced to death in November during the first round of convictions over the racket. The latest court actions, particularly Li's prosecution, testified to the 'unshakeable determination' of the party and Government to root out corruption and combat smuggling, Xinhua quoted Communist Party spokesman Yuan Chunqing as saying. 'Regardless of who is implicated, if rules and laws are broken, then investigations will be thorough and harsh punishment will be dished out,' the spokesman said, according to Xinhua.