China to prosecute former aide to retired president

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China will prosecute a former senior aide to retired president Hu Jintao after an investigation found that he took bribes and engaged in other corrupt behaviour, the government said on Monday, the latest top official to fall in a graft crackdown.

Ling Jihua has been expelled from the Communist Party and his case handed over to judicial authorities, the official Xinhua news agency said, meaning he will face prosecution.

The ruling Communist Party announced an investigation into Ling in December. He had been demoted in September, 2012 from a ministerial-level job months after his son was killed in a crash involving a luxury sports car.

A statement released after a meeting of the Politburo, one the party's elite ruling bodies, said that the crimes Ling is accused of had done enormous damage to the party's image and had a "terrible" effect on society.

"He or his family received and gave enormous bribes; he obtained a large number of the party's and state's core secrets, breaking discipline and the law," the government said in a statement carried by Xinhua.

Ling and his wife also received money and gifts from other, unnamed, people, and he had affairs with numerous women, it added. Party members can be punished for adultery as they are supposed to be upstanding members of society.

Sources had told Reuters previously that Ling may escape prosecution as he has apparently had a nervous breakdown.

Ling's case has presented a dilemma for Beijing; his position is particularly sensitive because of his close connection with former president Hu, Xi Jinping's predecessor.

A government spokesman denied in March that Hu was being implicated in the Ling probe and sources have told Reuters that Hu approved of the investigation.

It has not been possible to reach Ling or his family members for comment. It is not clear if he has a lawyer.

Since assuming power in late 2012, Xi, who doubles as party and military chief, has pursued a relentless campaign against deep-rooted corruption, vowing to go after powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

The biggest "tiger" snared so far is ex-domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, 72, who the government said last month had been jailed for life for bribery, leaking state secrets and abuse of power following a closed-door trial in May.

Any trial for Ling could well be held in secret, as Zhou's was, because of the reference to him obtaining secrets. The statement did not detail the secrets Ling is supposed to have obtained.