The case of former security czar Zhou Yongkang - sentenced to life behind bars - has revealed an intricate web of corruption, confirming for the first time rumours that other key players were involved and shedding light on their shady dealings.
Family members and close associates were named as the Tianjin first intermediate court handed down its verdict during a closed- door trial on Thursday, after key witnesses exposed Zhou's illicit connections in the political, business and energy sectors.
The 72-year-old was convicted of bribery, abuse of power and leaking state secrets.
While many such as former state asset regulator Jiang Jiemin, who testified against Zhou in court, Sichuan businessman Wu Bing and Zhou's eldest son Zhou Bin have already been formally investigated, detained or charged, the names of others had only been whispered before Thursday.
They included Zhou's current wife Jia Xiaoye and a mysterious fortune-telling qigong master named Cao Yongzheng.
Jia, a former television reporter nearly 30 years younger than Zhou, was reported by respected financial magazine Caixin to have been detained in December 2013, although this has never been confirmed by the authorities.
In its verdict, the Tianjin court said Jia and Zhou Bin received bribes totalling 129 million yuan (S$28 million). The official Xinhua news agency reported that a video of Jia testifying against her husband was played in court.
As for Cao, who reportedly garnered a following in celebrity and official circles in the 1990s for his purported knack for fortune telling and curing untreatable ailments, he was found to have also received "illegal gains" after getting help in his business.
Jiang and former Sichuan deputy party chief Li Chuncheng had helped Cao at Zhou's behest, Xinhua said. Li went on trial for corruption in April.
Together with Zhou's son, Zhou's nephew Zhou Feng, Zhou's younger brother Zhou Yuanqing and Sichuan-based businesswoman He Yan, all of whom also received similar favours for their businesses, the illegal gains totalled 2.14 billion yuan. This caused a loss of 1.49 billion yuan to the economy.
More interestingly, Xinhua reported that Cao received six confidential documents from Zhou in direct contravention of the State Secrets Law. While speculation was rife that Cao had been detained while trying to flee to Taiwan last year, his link to Zhou has never been officially confirmed.
Details also surfaced to connect the dots between those already caught in the anti-graft dragnet, unprecedented in its scale for reaching levels of the nation's leadership previously thought untouchable.
For instance, the court ruled that Zhou took bribes worth 731,100 yuan from his close ally Jiang, who sought profits for himself, Wu, former mayor of Luliang Ding Xuefeng, former chief accountant of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) Wen Qingshan and Zhou Hao, former party chief of CNPC subsidiary Liaohe Oilfield.
But sources quoted by Reuters noted that these names are just the tip of the iceberg of over 300 political allies and business associates nabbed in the past two years.
This article was first published on June 13, 2015.
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