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Senior China official gets life in prison for $22M in bribes

Associated Press logo Associated Press 1/06/2017 By MATTHEW BROWN, Associated Press
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Wang Baoan, center, the former head of China's National Bureau of Statistics, stands trial at the Intermediate People's Court of Zhangjiakou in Zhangjiakou in northern China's Hebei Province, Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Wang was sentenced to life in prison as one of several sentences handed down in corruption trials reported on Wednesday and Thursday, May 31, and June 1, 2017, after being convicted of taking massive bribes over more than two decades. (Xinhua via AP) © The Associated Press In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Wang Baoan, center, the former head of China's National Bureau of Statistics, stands trial at the Intermediate People's Court of Zhangjiakou in Zhangjiakou in northern China's Hebei Province, Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Wang was sentenced to life in prison as one of several sentences handed down in corruption trials reported on Wednesday and Thursday, May 31, and June 1, 2017, after being convicted of taking massive bribes over more than two decades. (Xinhua via AP)

BEIJING — The former head of China's statistics bureau was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of taking massive bribes over more than two decades — one of a spate of newly-resolved public corruption cases involving almost $100 million in money and illicit gifts.

National Bureau of Statistics head Wang Baoan was accused of trading political favors for money, sex, gifts, property and business concessions, according to a court in Hebei province and the official Xinhua News Agency. The bribes reportedly worth 153 million yuan ($22.4 million) were channeled to Wang either directly or through relatives.

Control over information such as bank lending and local economic growth is enormously valuable in China, where the government often operates in secret and officials are mainly evaluated for promotion based on their ability to meet economic development targets.

Wang's sentencing was one of seven in corruption trials involving senior public officials reported Wednesday and Thursday by Xinhua. The cases involved a combined 650 million yuan ($95.7 million) in bribes, an enormous sum compared to the relatively modest salaries paid to public officials in China.

Four of the officials including Wang received life in prison.

President Xi Jinping has made attacking corruption a central issue since taking leadership of the ruling Communist Party in late 2012. Although the pace of investigations has slowed somewhat, prosecutions were reportedly launched against 48 senior officials last year alone.

A former top general and a past member of the party's all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee have also been imprisoned under the campaign. On Friday, Chinese authorities executed former Inner Mongolia police chief Zhao Liping after he was convicted of murder, taking bribes and other charges. Zhao's family said he was tortured to force a confession.

Wang, the National Bureau of Statistics head, was accused of taking bribes beginning in 1994 and continuing until 2016, when he was expelled from the Communist Party and the investigation into his activities began. During that period, he also served in the State Administration of Taxation and the Ministry of Finance.

In August, Xinhua described Wang as "morally bankrupt," and accused him of frequenting high-end hotels and luxurious entertainment venues, as well as trading power and money for sex "insatiably."

Under his sentence his personal property was to be confiscated.

Three other former officials also received life sentences Wednesday and Thursday: Lu Ziyue, former mayor of Ningbo in Zhejiang province, for taking bribes worth 148 million yuan ($21.6 million) between 1999 and 2016; Chen Xuefeng, former member of the standing committee of the Communist Party in Henan province, for taking bribes worth 125 million yuan ($18.4 million) between 2000 and 2015 and embezzling 5.5 million yuan ($809,000) of public funds; and Liu Zhigeng, former vice governor of Guangdong province, for taking money and gifts worth 98 million yuan ($4.4 million), Xinhua reported.

Shorter prison sentences were given to three others, the news agency said.

The former chairman of the Wuhan Iron and Steel Corp., Deng Qilin, received 15 years for taking 55 million yuan ($8.2 million) in bribes. Former Sichuan province Vice Governor Li Chengyun received 10 years for taking 6.36 million yuan ($976,000) in bribes. And former Guangdong province senior legislator Wang Yang received 16-1/2 years for taking 63 million yuan ($9.3 million) in bribes and vote buying.

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