06 Jan 2021
China condemned the former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management Co. to death on charges of malfeasance, one of the most severe sentences to stem from President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive.
Lai Xiaomin, who was chairman of Huarong before he came under investigation in 2018, was sentenced to death for taking bribes as well as bigamy, according to a local court. He was found guilty of receiving 1.79 billion yuan ($277 million) in bribes between 2008 and 2018, according to the court of Tianjin City. All his personal assets will be confiscated, the ruling said.
Capital punishment is unusual for corruption in China, though a former vice mayor in the Shanxi province was sentenced to death in 2018. The move underscores the ruling Communist Party’s increasingly tough stance on corruption among government cadres and corporate executives, which has seen more than 1.5 million government officials punished. In 2016, China raised the threshold for capital punishment related to corruption to 3 million yuan from 100,000 yuan, but the penalty has seldom been used.
Mo Shaoping, a Beijing-based lawyer, said it’s rare that bribery cases result in the death penalty with many ending up being reprieved to life in prison. But in this case “the amount of corruption is particularly huge, likely the biggest in recent years,” Mo said. “The case has also sparked public outrage. Under the current environment, a death sentence is definitely sending a warning — and mostly importantly — shattering the belief that corruption isn’t punishable by death.”
A slew of officials have been caught up in Xi’s dragnet, including Yang Jiacai, a former assistant vice chairman at the banking regulator and Yao Gang, who was vice chairman of China Securities Regulatory Commission. They were all sentenced to at least 16 years in prison.
With assistance by Charlie Zhu, Dingmin Zhang, Lucille Liu, and Jing Li, Bloomberg News, 5 January 2021
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