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China court sentences Bo Xilai to life term for corruption, confiscates property

The catalyst for Bo's fall came when his top aide in mega-city Chongqing, where he was party chief, fled to a US consulate with evidence the politician's wife had murdered a British associate in February 2012. Sutirtho Patranobis reports. Key dates in Chinese politician Bo Xilai's downfall

world Updated: Sep 23, 2013 02:56 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times
Bo Xilai,Jinan Intermediate People's Court,Sina Weibo

Disgraced Chinese politician Bo Xilai was sentenced to a life in prison on Sunday after a court found him guilty of all three charges of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power slapped against him.

The hefty sentence which adds up to more than 20 years all but buries Bo’s political future; the Jinan Intermediate People’s Court also ruled that he will be deprived of his political rights and ordered that his personal assets be confiscated.

Bo has the right to appeal against the verdict within the next 10 days but even if he does appeal, it is unlikely that it will be successful.

Sunday’s verdict by the court in eastern China’s Shandong province follows the most sensational political scandal – involving murder, money and, observers say, political power-play - to have broken out of China in decades.

At the time the scandal broke out last year, Bo was a member of Communist Party of China’s (CPC) elite Central Committee Politburo and was among the 25 most powerful politicians in the country.

In little more than a year, on Sunday the once-rising star of the CPC was handed life imprisonment for bribery, 15 years for embezzlement and another seven years for abuse of power; Bo will serve the sentence concurrently.

Bo had put up an unexpectedly spirited defence during his five-day trial in August, dismissing the charges and questioning the evidence put up by the prosecution against him.

READ: Hotel-style prison awaits China's Bo Xilai: inmates

The court on Sunday rejected Bo’s arguments that he did not abuse his powers as Chongqing Party Secretary to cover up the murder of Neil Heywood by his wife Gu Kailai; she is already serving a prison sentence following her indictment last year.

“In his bid to prevent a review of the Heywood case, Bo also violated the organisational procedures and convened a Standing Committee meeting of the CPC Chongqing Municipal Committee to remove Wang Lijun from his position as Chongqing's police chief,” the verdict said. Subsequently, Wang tried to take asylum at the US Consulate in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province on February 6, 2012.

The verdict said Bo's these actions were important reasons behind Wang's defection and why the Heywood case was not handled in a timely and legal manner.

All these had created an extremely adverse social impact and greatly hurt the interests of the country and its people, the court said.

Bo, according to state media, was found guilty of accepting bribes worth 20.44 million Yuan (about $3.3 million). READ: Bo Xilai: rise and fall of a political star in China

It decided that there was insufficient evidence supporting that he accepted 1.34 million yuan worth of air ticket fees as bribes. But Bo's wife and son accepted air ticket fees from businessman Xu Ming, according to the indictment during the first trial in August.

The Shenzhen-based Hong Kong Commercial Daily says Bo is likely to serve his sentence at the Beijing Qincheng Prison, a maximum security facility in the Changping district, where Wang is also serving his sentence and Bo's father was incarcerated during the Cultural Revolution.

Li Zhaojie from the Law School of the reputed Tsinghua University said that the possibility of Bo appealing against the verdict was very high.

Speaking to CCTV, Li said by not making public his decision to appeal or not on Sunday, Bo probably gave himself time to talk to his lawyers.

Bo's trial in August was seen as part the CPC's crackdown on corruption, as he was among one of the most senior officials to stand trial for graft in recent years.

During his trial last month, the government had allowed the court to release details about the procedures through updates on a popular microblog. Though done for the first time, questions were also raised about how the information was censored before the updates were released.

First Published: Sep 22, 2013 08:52 IST