May 8, 2018 / 2:52 AM / 6 months ago

Former party boss in China's Chongqing city jailed for life for graft

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court has sentenced Sun Zhengcai, the former Communist Party boss of the southwestern city of Chongqing, to life in prison for corruption, state media said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Then Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai attends the opening session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Sun is the latest former senior official taken down in President Xi Jinping’s war on graft. He admitted in April to an intermediate court in the city of Tianjin that he had taken bribes of more than 170 million yuan ($27 million).

“After the judgment was announced, Sun Zhengcai told the court he admitted his guilt, expressed repentance, accepted the decision, and said he would not appeal,” the official Xinhua news agency said, citing the Tianjin court.

Reuters has not been able to reach Sun or a representative for comment since he was put under investigation last year.

Sun, 54, was abruptly removed in July from his post as party chief of Chongqing, one of China’s most important cities. He was replaced by Chen Miner, who is close to Xi.

Until then, Sun, one of the youngest of the 25 members of the ruling party’s decision-making Politburo, had been considered a contender for top leadership.

Prosecutors charged Sun in February with accepting “huge sums” in bribes during various posts going back 15 years in Chongqing, Beijing, the northeastern province of Jilin, and during his term as minister of agriculture.

He was certain to be found guilty because China’s courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge its accusations.

Xi has presided over a sweeping corruption crackdown since coming to power in 2012, vowing to target both “tigers” and “flies” in a reference to elite officials and ordinary bureaucrats.

The campaign has led to the jailing or punishment of thousands of officials and also brought down dozens of senior party and military officials.

The anti-corruption effort has not just been focused on issues like bribery and using public money to fund lavish lifestyles. It has also taken aim at those whose political loyalty is found lacking or who express doubt in public about party policies.

China has rebuffed criticism that the campaign is as much about settling political scores as about stamping out genuine criminal acts.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Paul Tait

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