Senior Chinese politician's brother admits graft: State media

BEIJING (AFP) - The brother of a senior aide to former Chinese President Hu Jintao pleaded guilty to corruption charges on Tuesday (Oct 18), state media reported, after a family downfall triggered by a notorious Ferrari crash.

Ling Zhengce told the Changzhou Intermediate People's Court he had taken over US$2.4 million (S$3.3 million) in bribes, according to the official Xinhua news service.

He "pleaded guilty and expressed remorse" in his final statement, it reported.

His brother Ling Jihua - once Mr Hu's chief of staff - was jailed for life in July on charges of corruption, illegally obtaining state secrets and abuse of power.

That case marked the end of the powerful political operative's downfall, set into motion when his son was killed at the wheel of his supercar in Beijing.

The accident disrupted the once-in-a-decade party leadership change when current President Xi Jinping took over from Mr Hu in 2012.

Another brother, Ling Wancheng, has fled to the United States, a Chinese anti-graft official confirmed in January, adding Beijing was "in touch" with Washington about his case.

His exile has led to speculation in overseas Chinese media that Ling Jihua had given him top state secrets, including the launch codes for China's nuclear weapons, to secure some leverage in negotiations with Beijing over his case.

Tuesday's trial was part of a high-profile corruption crackdown by Mr Xi that has deposed of several senior officials, notably former security chief Zhou Yongkang, who was jailed for life last year.

Earlier this week, state broadcaster CCTV released a documentary on the campaign, which included video confessions from 10 of the country's biggest corruption cases.

Graft is endemic in China's authoritarian system, and Mr Xi has acknowledged it as a threat to the ruling party's survival.

But critics say that a lack of transparency around the purge means it has been an opportunity for Mr Xi to eliminate political enemies.