Former top China official charged with bribery

Former top China official charged with bribery

BEIJING - China's wide-ranging crackdown on corruption has snared its highest-ranking official so far, a former senior economic planning officer who will face criminal charges after authorities charged him with bribery on Monday.

Liu Tienan fell from grace after allegations about illegal activities first surfaced from a prominent journalist two years ago.

The former deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission sought benefits for others by taking advantage of his position, and accepted "an extremely large amount" of financial incentives, the official Xinhua news agency quoted an indictment as saying.

The charges were laid against Liu by prosecutors in Langfang in the northern province of Hubei, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said in a statement on its website.

He was placed under investigation last August after being expelled from the ruling Communist Party.

Xi Jinping took office as president last year vowing to root out corrupt officials ranging from high-ranking "tigers" to low-level "flies", and warning that graft could destroy the party.

Corruption causes widespread public anger and the drive has been widely publicised. But critics say no systemic reforms have been introduced to combat it, while citizen activists calling for such measures have been jailed on public order offences.

Allegations against Liu surfaced in 2012 when a journalist at investigative magazine Caijing accused him of fraud, graft and sending death threats.

News of the charges came the same day that the Communist Party's official news website said that the brother of politician Ling Jihua, a one-time presidential ally whose son was killed in a scandalous Ferrari crash, had been sacked from his post.

Ling Zhengce, 62, has been removed as a vice president of the Shanxi provincial branch of the Chinese People's Consultative Conference, a debating chamber which is part of the party-controlled government structure, according to a report by The party's central disciplinary body announced last week he was being investigated for "serious discipline violations", generally a euphemism for graft.

Ling Jihua's son died in a high-speed crash in Beijing in March 2012 that also left two women passengers - one of them naked - injured.

Photographs of the crash were briefly circulated online, sparking questions about how the son of a government official could afford a car worth a reported five million yuan (S$1 million).

China on Monday also moved against five "graft-busters" who "violated principles of the....campaign against undesirable work styles", a report by Xinhua said.

Among the cases were two local discipline bosses who were dismissed after they were said to have received $17,000 and $8,500 in gifts at family gatherings, the agency said, citing the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Xinhua on Friday published a commentary on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo comparing the probe into Ling Zhengce with the fall of a brother of former railways minister Liu Zhijun.

Liu was later sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve - a penalty normally commuted to life imprisonment - for taking 64.6 million yuan in bribes.

Officials who have been put under investigation in recent years "have built up corrupted families using their blood or marital ties", said the article, according to a repost.

The original was quickly deleted but it was widely reproduced by other Chinese media outlets, including the People's Daily Online, the website of the Communist party's official mouthpiece.

The commentary added such individuals "will eventually bring disgrace and ruin upon themselves just like the Liu brothers, no matter how high-ranking their post was or how powerful they were".

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