BEIJING (Reuters) - A former aide to China's retired domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang was sacked on Wednesday after the authorities opened a corruption probe, the latest move targeting associates of Mr Zhou, who is also under investigation for graft.
Mr Guo Yongxiang has been expelled from the ruling Communist Party and stripped of his public office for "serious law and discipline violations", the party's anti-graft watchdog said in an announcement on its website (www.ccdi.gov.cn).
Mr Guo worked together with Mr Zhou for at least 12 years, according to both their official resumes, including in the south-western province of Sichuan, where Mr Zhou was party boss. Mr Guo eventually rose to be a vice-provincial governor.
The investigation found that Mr Guo had "exacted profits for others with his power, taken a great amount of bribes and gifts himself or through the hands of his son", the graft watchdog said in a brief statement. "Guo also sought profits for his son's businesses with his power, and was morally corrupt," it added. "Guo has seriously violated the law and party discipline."
His illegally accrued assets will be seized and he will be handed over to judicial bodies for prosecution, it said.
Mr Guo had been head of a Sichuan province literary organisation when the party began investigating him last year.
It was not possible to reach him for comment and it is not clear if he has a lawyer.
President Xi Jinping has launched a sweeping crackdown on corruption since taking power, warning corruption is a threat to the Communist Party's survival.
Sources have told Reuters that Mr Zhou has been put under virtual house arrest, though the party has yet to make an announcement about his case.
Several of MR Zhou's political allies have been held in custody and questioned over corruption, including former vice-minister of public security Li Dongsheng and Jiang Jiemin, who was the top regulator of state-owned enterprises for just five months until September.
It is unclear if the government will put Mr Zhou on trial and risk embarrassing public revelations about China's elite, potentially undermining confidence in the party.
Mr Zhou was a patron of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai, who was jailed for life in September for corruption and abuse of power in the worst political scandal since the 1976 downfall of the Gang of Four led by the widow of former leader Mao Zedong at the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Mr Zhou retired in 2012. He was last seen at an alumni celebration at the China University of Petroleum on Oct 1.