Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Bo Xilai convicted of corruption

Bo Xilai, centre, is handcuffed and held by police officers as he stands at the court in Jinan, in eastern China's Shandong province (AP)
Bo Xilai, centre, is handcuffed and held by police officers as he stands at the court in Jinan, in eastern China's Shandong province (AP)

A Chinese court has convicted fallen politician Bo Xilai of corruption and sentenced him to life in prison, capping one of the country's most lurid political scandals in decades.

The Jinan Intermediate People's Court convicted the former Politburo member and Chongqing city Communist Party chief on charges of taking bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power.

He was sentenced to life in prison on the bribery charges, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power. Bo, with crew cut hair and wearing a white shirt, stood to hear the verdict.

Bo's downfall was set in motion by his wife's murder of a British businessman, followed his top aide's attempt to defect to a US consulate with information about the case. Bo was later investigated for corruption.

In a marked departure from other recent politically charged trials, which are typically understood to be closely choreographed proceedings, Bo launched an unusually vigorous defence during his trial last month.

He denied all charges and blamed the corruption on others in his inner circle, thus forgoing the opportunity to earn leniency as is customarily given in Chinese courts when a defendant expresses contrition.

Bo also became the highest-level politician convicted for corruption under China's leader Xi Jinping, who has staked his reputation on combatting graft within the Communist Party.

"I think the point is that Xi wanted to punish Bo Xilai for daring to go against the party's arrangements," said Willy Lam, an expert on party politics at Chinese University in Hong Kong. "He was punished for his disobedience and defiance."

According to details of Sunday's proceedings released by the court in Twitter-like posts, Bo was escorted into the courtroom by marshals and stood to listen as the judge read out the lengthy verdict.

The court rejected Bo's defence that he did not know about the £2.2 million in bribes from two business associates in the form of extensive valuable gifts to his family - including a French villa, expenses-paid trips, an electric scooter and fancy delicacies such as abalone. However, the court said a small portion of the bribes alleged by prosecutors, of about £100,000 were not proven in court.

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