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China ex-banker sentenced to death for bribery, bigamy

Published: Updated:

The former chairman of one of China’s largest state-controlled asset management firms was sentenced to death Tuesday for soliciting $260 million in bribes, corruption and bigamy.

Lai Xiaomin, a former Communist Party member, gave a detailed televised confession on state broadcaster CCTV last January, which showed footage of safes and cabinets stuffed with cash in a Beijing apartment allegedly belonging to him.

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Lai had abused his position in attempting to obtain the vast sum, the court in Tianjin said, describing the bribes as “extremely large” and labelling the circumstances “particularly serious”.

He had shown “extreme malicious intent,” the court ruling added.

The former chairman of the Hong Kong-listed China Huarong Asset Management Co., a distressed debt group, was also found guilty of bigamy after living with a woman “as man and wife for long periods” outside of his marriage and fathering illegitimate children.

Lai’s downfall began in April 2018 as investigators removed him from his job and stripped him of his party position.

He was also alleged to have used his position to embezzle over 25 million yuan ($3.8 million) in public funds between 2009 and 2018.

During his TV confession, Lai said he “did not spend a single penny, and just kept it there... I did not dare to spend it.”

CCTV also showed luxury cars and gold bars reportedly accepted by Lai as bribes.

The channel often broadcasts interviews with suspects admitting to crimes before they have appeared in court, a practice that has long been condemned by lawyers and rights organisations as forcing confessions under duress.

The court said Lai would have all personal assets confiscated and be stripped of his political rights.

Photos published by the court show Lai standing up and facing the judge to be sentenced, flanked by two police officers wearing face masks.

The sentencing brings an end to one of the country’s biggest financial crime cases, and comes as Beijing takes an increasingly tough stance on corporate crime.

Critics have said the wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign launched under President Xi Jinping has also served as a way to target his opponents and those of the Communist Party leadership.

But since Xi came to power, only one high ranking official has been executed, Zhao Liping, who was convicted of homicide in 2016.

Three other senior Communist Party members have been sentenced to death but later given a reprieve.

The former head of Interpol, an ex-spy chief and a Xinjiang governor accused of “trading power for sex” are some of the other high-profile officials to suffer spectacular falls from grace in recent years in the anti-corruption purge.

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