Ally of China's disgraced Bo sentenced on graft charges

BEIJING (REUTERS) - An ally of disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai has received a suspended death sentence for taking millions of yuan in bribes, a Beijing lawyer said on Thursday, in the latest fallout from one of China's biggest political scandals.

Tang Jianhua, once deputy police chief in the southwestern city of Chongqing, where Bo was Communist Party chief, was found guilty of taking 17 million yuan (S$2.5 million) in bribes, according to Mr Li Zhuang, a lawyer and prominent opponent of Bo during his time as party boss.

The sentence was handed down by a Chongqing court more than a month ago, Mr Li said.

Asked about the sentencing, an official in Chongqing city's propaganda department said "we are not clear about this so far."

The Chongqing court that sentenced Tang did not immediately reply to a faxed request for comment.

Bo was ousted from his post last year after his estranged police chief, Wang Lijun, fled briefly to a US consulate and accused Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood.

Gu and Wang have since been convicted and jailed.

Bo, 63, had once been widely tipped for promotion to the party's elite inner core.

No criminal charges against him have been announced but Tang's conviction, if confirmed, would indicate that prosecutors are gradually resolving cases linked to him.

The Central Discipline Inspection Commission, the anti-corruption authority that is investigating Bo and his allies, last year ordered Tang to face questioning. He was arrested in September.

A suspended death sentence means Tang will likely face life in prison as long as he does not commit any offences in the next two years.

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