World News

China jails businesswoman in railway graft case for 20 years

BEIJING (Reuters) - A court in China sentenced a well-known businesswoman to 20 years in jail for corruption on Tuesday, saying the woman with ties to a disgraced former railways minister was guilty of bribery and illegally running a business.

Ding Yuxin, also known as Ding Shumiao, helped 23 businesses win railway construction contracts and funnelled 49 million yuan (£5 million) worth of kickbacks to former railways minister Liu Zhijun, state media has previously reported.

She also “offered sexual favours to Liu by arranging an unidentified number of women for him”, the official China Daily reported last year.

In a brief statement on its microblog, a Beijing court said the evidence in the case against her was clear, ordering she also pay a fine of 2.5 billion yuan and have assets worth 20 million yuan confiscated.

It gave no other details.

Ding had humble beginnings as an egg seller but over three decades built a business empire with interests in the coal business as well as China’s high-speed rail system.

Officials began an inquiry into her when an auditing authority found a state-owned enterprise paid nearly 100 million yuan to her company, state media has said.

After a high-profile trial last year, former minister Liu received a suspended death sentence, a punishment that usually amounts to life in prison, for taking bribes and steering contracts to associates.

President Xi Jinping has embarked on a campaign against deep-seated graft since assuming office two years ago, warning, like others before him, that the ruling Communist Party’s very survival is at stake.

The Railways Ministry suffered a major blow to its image when a 2011 crash between two bullet trains killed 40 people.

Funding high-speed train lines has left the railway system mired in debt.

The government’s corruption fight has extended to almost every corner of the country, including powerful state-owned companies which dominate important sectors of the economy, such as energy, banking and telecommunications.

Deputy supervision minister Hao Mingjin, in an interview carried on the party’s anti-graft watchdog’s website, said inspectors had found a series of problems with state-owned sectors, and warned they must follow party rules.

“They can’t think of themselves as their own businesses or that they are the boss. The inherent political nature of state-owned industries is the party’s leadership over them,” Hao said.

The government has vowed to reform the inefficient state sector by harnessing the power of the market, but few details have been released.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Beijing newsroom; Editing by Michael Perry and Robert Birsel