Shanghai’s jailed top prosecutor ‘implicates 100 other officials in corruption case’
- Suspects implicated by Chen Xu are now under investigation
- Former prosecutor was given a life sentence for taking bribes worth more than US$10 million
The former chief prosecutor of Shanghai who is serving a life sentence for bribery has implicated about 100 officials linked to his conviction, a source familiar with the case has told the South China Morning Post.
Once dubbed the “law manipulator of Shanghai”, Chen Xu was sentenced on October 25 after a court in Nanning, the capital of south China’s Guangxi region, found him guilty of taking money and property worth more than 74.2 million yuan (US$10.7 million) personally or through family members between 2000 and 2015.
His downfall came amid a crackdown on corruption by the Chinese leadership and many of those implicated by him are now under investigation.
Chen’s conviction followed a sudden fall from grace last year. He was detained on March 1, the same day he made his last public appearance at a Shanghai law society event, and placed under investigation by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Communist Party’s main anti-corruption watchdog.
A Shanghai native, Chen spent his entire 38-year career working in the city. He started out as a court clerk before rising to become the top prosecutor in China’s financial centre in 2008.
People close to him described him as “very well-connected” and “able to get things done”, but others referred to him as a “wheeler-dealer”.
But his rise attracted a string of allegations of wrongdoing, including from the Hong Kong businessman Ren Junliang, who complained that the prosecutor had been abusing his power for economic benefit.
Ren, the owner of Shanghai Yutong Properties Ltd, was involved in a long-running property dispute in which key witnesses died in suspicious circumstances.
The South China Morning Post has learned that Ren’s allegations about Chen were so explosive that he made his brother hide documents related to the case on his person and take them directly to Wang Qishan, the country’s anti-corruption chief at the time.
Ren had developed the Shanghai Wanbang Centre on a site in the city’s Pudong district in 1996.
But in 2005 the property was impounded by a court because Ren’s vice-chairman, Shen Chenqin, had forged documents to borrow money for his own businesses and had then failed to repay the money.
China News Weekly, a magazine run by the official China News Service, reported last year that Shanghai police’s commercial affairs department had asked a court in Hongkou district to return the building to Ren’s control.
But Chen, who at the time was the deputy chief prosecutor in Shanghai’s high court, intervened to force through the auction of the building to a company thought to have been controlled by members of his family for 200 million yuan – about a quarter of its true value.
As for Shen, although he could have been jailed for life for fraud, he escaped with a sentence of just two years.
When Ren complained about the sale, the Anti-Corruption Bureau under the Supreme People’s Procuratorate instructed the Shanghai procuratorate to review the case in 2006.
But according to China News Weekly, two judges who had been questioned over the case died suddenly and in mysterious circumstances.
Fan Junpei, the judge of the Hongkou district court, and Pan Yuming, the judge at Shanghai No 1 intermediate court, were reported to have been invited to dinner by a mysterious person and both were found dead the next morning.
A month later Wang Xinming, the general manager of the company that handled the auction, and his wife Zhang Huizhi, were also found dead at their villa in the city.
It is not clear whether the suspicious deaths have ever been fully investigated and few details of the case have ever been made public.
The deaths also meant that the Anti-Corruption Bureau had to abandon its investigation and it was more than a decade before Chen was finally brought to justice.
Chen is the latest in a string of “tigers” – senior officials who have been brought down on corruption charges – after President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013 and ordered a wide-ranging crackdown.
Observers noticed that Chen’s conviction was solely on a charge of bribery and the court had not ruled on accusations that he had exploited his position to help individuals and companies to win contracts or secure favourable court rulings.
The source who has direct knowledge of the case said it was extremely difficult for the anti-corruption watchdog to target those who had a deep understanding of China’s law and judicial system because they “cover their trails way better” than others.