Friday, April 11, 2008
The New York Times
April 12, 2008
Ex-Party Boss in China Gets 18 Years
By DAVID BARBOZA
BEIJING - The former Communist Party boss of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, was sentenced on Friday to 18 years in prison for taking bribes and abusing power.
Mr. Chen, who before his arrest in late 2006 was also a member of China's ruling Politburo, is the highest ranking government official to be stripped of power here in over a decade.
His sentence was handed down Friday at the No. 2 Intermediate People's Court in the northern city of Tianjin, where he had recently been on trial.
Prosecutors accused Mr. Chen, 62, of helping siphon hundreds of millions of dollars out of the city's pension fund, and also of enriching himself, friends and relatives through shady financial and real estate deals beginning as early as 1988.
Government auditors said they discovered that about $4.8 billion had been illegally taken out of the city's social security fund while Mr. Chen was serving in various government posts in Shanghai.
The pension fund scandal rocked Shanghai in late 2006 and early 2007, leading to the arrests of a group of powerful politicians and businessmen, including Zhang Rongkun, once one of the country's wealthiest men.
Mr. Zhang, 39, was sentenced earlier this month to 19 years in prison for stock manipulation, financial fraud and his role in the city pension fund scandal.
Prosecutors said Mr. Chen had helped Mr. Zhang acquire land and other holdings by illegally lending him money from the city's pension fund.
During a closed-door trial, Mr. Chen admitted that he was "partially responsible" for some of the pension fund fraud but pleaded not guilty, according to the state-run news media.
The sentencing comes at a time when China is struggling to cope with a growing number of corruption scandals among its officials. When a government Web site went public last December, welcoming tips on corruption, it was bombarded with so many hits that it crashed.
In recent years, Beijing has been vowing to get tough on corruption, which some leaders believe could be a threat to the ruling Communist Party.
Still, the Chen Liangyu case is unusual because few members of the country's ruling Politburo face legal troubles, even when there is some evidence of corruption, unless there are sharp political conflicts or a ferocious power struggle with more powerful leaders.
Before his fall, Mr. Chen was considered part of a group of powerful Shanghai politicians who were close to China's former paramount leader, Jiang Zemin, who led Shanghai and later became president, stepping down in 2003.
The members of the Shanghai group were frequently at odds with the policies of their immediate successors as the country's new leaders, President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, according to people close to the leadership.
Rumors of Mr. Chen's downfall had circulated in China as early as 2005. He was detained in September 2006, after Beijing sent a team of inspectors to Shanghai to investigate fraud there.
Last October, Mr. Chen was stripped of his Communist Party post. At the time of his arrest, he was one of the country's most powerful politicians, and had served in various city posts, including vice mayor, mayor and Shanghai party secretary, the highest position.
The government said he was guilty of accepting about $300,000 in bribes, according to the state-run news media.
On Friday, in announcing his prison sentence, the government said it had confiscated about $45,000 worth of his personal belongings.