CHINA - After Bo Xilai, his rumoured ally and retired security czar Zhou Yongkang is next on the chopping block, a newspaper reported, backing rumours that have been swirling for more than a year.
China's top leaders have given the go-ahead for a corruption probe into Mr Zhou, a move that could send greater shockwaves through Beijing than the criminal investigation of Bo, Chongqing's former party boss, the South China Morning Post said on Friday.
The 70-year-old stepped down from the Politburo Standing Committee (PSC), China's top decision- making body, late last year.
If news of the probe - coming days after Bo's trial ended on Monday - is true, it would show President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive is in full swing. Bo faced charges of accepting bribes, embezzlement and abuse of power.
Experts say that while it is still too early to determine if criminal charges might actually be brought against one of China's most powerful politicians in the past five years, the message is clear: Senior officials are no longer "untouchable" because of their high rank.
Mr Zhou will be the first PSC member to be investigated for economic crimes in recent decades.
The Post, quoting "sources familiar with the leadership's thinking", said top leaders made the decision earlier this month at the annual Beidaihe party meeting in light of mounting anger at the scale of corruption and also at the vast wealth that Mr Zhou and his family have amassed.
Mr Xi ordered officials in charge of the case to "get to the bottom of it", the report said.