'Xinjiang sage' jailed 7 years, fined $14.7m

Fortune-teller Cao Yongzheng (right), had provided testimony against disgraced former public security chief Zhou Yongkang (left) at his closed-door trial last year. Cao had a following among China's celebrities and ruling elite.
Fortune-teller Cao Yongzheng (right), had provided testimony against disgraced former public security chief Zhou Yongkang (left) at his closed-door trial last year. Cao had a following among China's celebrities and ruling elite.

Fortune-teller linked to China's top officials found guilty of bribery and illegal land deals

BEIJING • A court in central China has jailed for seven years on corruption charges a Chinese fortune teller and healer connected to China's disgraced former public security chief Zhou Yongkang.

Zhou, the most senior Chinese official to be ensnared in a graft probe since the ruling Communist Party swept to power in 1949, was jailed for life last year for bribery, leaking state secrets and abuse of power.

Among his crimes was the unauthorised release of six secret documents to Cao Yongzheng, state media said.

Cao was previously identified by Chinese media as a soothsayer, mystic and expert in qigong, a Chinese spiritual martial art similar to taiji.

Cao provided testimony against Zhou at his closed-door trial, though it was unclear at the time whether he had done so in person or by deposition, or if he was also in custody.

In a brief statement on its official microblog, the intermediate court in the central city of Yichang said Cao had been found guilty of bribery and illegal land deals, and will be jailed for seven years and fined 73 million yuan (S$14.7 million).

Cao said he accepted the judgment and would not appeal, the court said, without elaborating.

It was not possible to reach Cao or his lawyer for comment.

Dubbed the "Xinjiang sage" by the Chinese media, after the far Western region where he grew up, Cao garnered a following in celebrity and official circles in the 1990s for his purported knack for fortune-telling and curing untreatable ailments.

His talents allowed him to cultivate contacts that reached into the upper echelons of the country's ruling elite, respected business magazine Caixin reported.

Cao was also linked to another fallen official - Li Dongsheng, a former vice-minister of public security who once served under Zhou.

Li, 60, was sentenced to 15 years in jail by a court in Tianjin in January for graft related to state broadcaster CCTV, reported Caixin.

Caixin reported that Li also took bribes from Cao in exchange for helping Cao's daughter secure airtime on CCTV for a musical play she had brought into China as part of an international tour.

Cao testified that he offered bribes to Li because the latter was a powerful leader who had resources in state broadcaster CCTV and the Ministry of Public Security.

Li was a vice-president of the station previously.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline ''Xinjiang sage' jailed 7 years, fined $14.7m'. Print Edition | Subscribe