China charges former senior official with graft

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China on Monday formally charged a former deputy head of its top planning agency with corruption, paving the way for his trial as the government pursues a high-profile campaign to root out graft.

Liu Tienan, who was sacked in May last year and thrown out of the ruling Communist Party in August, will be the first ministerial-level official to face a probe after Xi Jinping became Communist Party head in late 2012 and announced a crackdown on corruption.

The case came to light after Luo Changping, deputy editor-in-chief of investigative magazine Caijing, posted accusations of Liu's involvement in illegal activities on his microblog.

Liu is accused of abusing his government positions and taking bribes, China's state prosecutor said in a statement.

He had been deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, a powerful body that sets broad economic policies and approves major investments, and also head of energy regulator the National Energy Administration.

Liu "sought benefits for others, illegally received an extremely large amount of valuables from others and should accept criminal responsibility according to the law for the crime of taking bribes", the prosecutor said.

The brief statement provided no other details of the charges against Liu. He is certain to be found guilty as the Communist Party controls the courts, which do not challenge party accusations, especially in graft cases.

State media have earlier reported that Liu had taken bribes for helping a businessman to defraud banks of loans of more than $200 million in 2011 for an investment in Canada and that key information on Liu's case initially came from a former mistress in Japan.

The charges were formally filed by prosecutors in Langfang in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, meaning the trial is likely to take place there.

Mr Xi, who became president in March last year, has made fighting pervasive corruption a central theme of his administration, warning the problem is so severe it could threaten the party's very survival.