UPDATE 1-Sinopec ex-chairman Chen faces corruption charges

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BEIJING, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The former chairman of China's Sinopec Corp 0386.HK, Chen Tonghai, has been expelled from the Communist Party and faces criminal prosecution on corruption charges, state media reported on Friday.

The news came a week after state media said Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged to intensify a crackdown on official corruption.

Chen, an oil industry veteran and formerly deputy head of the country’s macro-economic planner, is one of the most senior officials toppled for corruption in the past two years.

“Chen has taken a huge amount of bribes and abused his power to gain inappropriate benefits for his mistress. He led a decadent life, and his behaviour is a severe breach of party disciplines,” state television said.

The report did not give more details.

Chen suddenly left the helm of Sinopec, China’s second-largest oil and gas firm, last June, two years before he was due to retire.

In a November report, China’s Caijing Magazine linked Chen with a 45-year-old woman, Li Wei, owner of a local real estate firm that allegedly bought land linked to a huge oil refinery project in east China at cheap prices.

Among other high-profile corruption cases, Chen Liangyu was sacked as Shanghai party boss in September 2006 and now faces criminal investigation for his role in a scandal centred on the misuse of the city’s social security funds.

The former head of China’s food and drug safety watchdog, Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed last year shortly after being caught taking bribes to renew drugs licences. (Reporting by Zhou Xin and Chen Aizhu; writing by Chen Aizhu, editing by Will Waterman)