April 12, 2018 / 2:52 AM / a year ago

Former top Chinese official admits taking 170 million yuan in bribes

BEIJING (Reuters) - A former senior official in China admitted on Thursday to taking bribes of more than 170 million yuan ($27 million), state media said, the latest casualty of President Xi Jinping’s unrelenting war on graft.

FILE PHOTO: Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai attends the opening session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 5, 2017. Picture taken on March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

Sun Zhengcai, 54, was abruptly removed in July from his post as Communist Party chief of southwestern Chongqing, one of China’s most important cities, to be replaced by Chen Miner, who is close to Xi.

Until then, Sun, one of the youngest of the 25 members of the ruling party’s decision-making Politburo, had been considered a contender for top leadership.

“I severely violated discipline and the law, and have been solemnly tried by law,” Sun said in videos of his statement to a court in the city of Tianjin released by state broadcaster CCTV.

“I have only myself to blame and deserve my punishment. I completely accept (the charges). I sincerely admit my guilt and express regret.”

Prosecutors in February had charged Sun with accepting “huge sums” in bribes during various posts going back 15 years in Chongqing, Beijing, the northeastern province of Jilin, and during his term as minister of agriculture.

At a hearing on Thursday, Sun was charged with illegally accepting cash and gifts worth a total of over 170 million, the court said on its official social media account, adding that its verdict would be released later.

Sun is certain to be found guilty as the courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge the accusations against him.

Reuters was not able to reach Sun or a representative for comment since he was put under investigation last year.

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has presided over a sweeping corruption crackdown, vowing to target both “tigers” and “flies”, a reference to elite officials and ordinary bureaucrats.

Sun’s case is testimony to the “fearless spirit and unwavering resolve” of the campaign against graft, the party’s official People’s Daily newspaper said.

“It again sends a clear signal: there is no such thing as a special party member in the face of party discipline and national law,” it said in a commentary.

Reporting by Michael Martina and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry and Clarence Fernandez

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