BEIJING, Nov 20 (Reuters) - The former president of a major Chinese news organization has been arrested for allegedly heading a protection racket that raked in 200 million yuan ($32.66 million) from nearly one hundred companies, state media reported.
Shanghai prosecutors arrested Shen Hao, president of 21st Century Media Ltd. and publisher of influential business daily 21st Century Business Herald, on counts of extortion, bribery and misappropriation of funds, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The company's vice president Chen Dongyang and chief financial officer Le Bing also were officially charged.
Shen and Chen were taken into custody by Shanghai authorities in September, and the newspaper's website was ordered shut down, after it was alleged the newspaper group operated a racket that offered companies protection from negative coverage for a fee.
Prosecutors on Thursday said the 21st Century Business Herald, the website affiliated with the publication, Money Week, and eight companies under the group were involved.
The website would charge companies between 200,000 and 300,000 yuan ($33,000-49,000) in the form of advertising contracts to delete critical articles, according to earlier reports.
Shen also was charged with embezzling more than 770,000 yuan in company funds, Xinhua said.
The arrests come as Chinese authorities crack down on the widespread use of extortion by media firms. (1 US dollar = 6.1230 Chinese yuan) (Reporting By Matthew Miller; editing by Susan Thomas)