Former Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai jailed for life for bribery

Former Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai (centre) speaking during the Anhui province opening session as part of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Mar 6, 2017.
Former Chongqing party boss Sun Zhengcai (centre) speaking during the Anhui province opening session as part of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Mar 6, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - A former top Chinese Communist Party official who was once tipped for a top leadership post was sentenced to life in prison for bribery, Chinese state media said on Tuesday (May 8), the latest senior cadre to fall in President Xi Jinping's sweeping anti-corruption crusade.

Sun Zhengcai, a former Politburo member and party chief of the southwestern mega-city of Chongqing, was found guilty of taking over 170 million yuan (US$26.7 million) in bribes, the official Xinhua news service said, adding that his "illegal gains" would be confiscated.

Sun, 54, had once been tipped for promotion to the Politburo’s elite seven-member standing committee, which rules the country and is presided over by Xi.

As the youngest Politburo member, Sun was even seen in some quarters as a potential successor to Xi.

The court said the defendant has been given a “lenient” sentence in light of his willingness to cooperate with the investigation. In addition to his prison term, Sun’s “stolen property has already all been confiscated,” the statement said.

Sun had been accused of taking advantage of his position to seek profits for others and illegally accepting money, according to previous court statements.

He and his alleged associates were charged with accepting the bribes in return for providing help to unspecified organisations and individuals with engineering contracts, business operations and other matters.

His actions had “gravely damaged the normal work order of national organisations and harmed the integrity of conduct by national employees,” the statement said.

He pleaded guilty to the charges during a one-day trial in April.

Sun was the first serving member of the 25-person Politburo to be placed under investigation since Bo Xilai, another former leader of Chongqing, who was jailed for life in 2013.

Xi has presided over a popular anti-graft campaign since coming to power in 2012 that has punished more than one million officials, but critics have compared it to a political purge.