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China’s former deputy environment minister jailed for taking bribes worth 2.4 million yuan

A former deputy environment minister in China has been sentenced to four years behind bars for taking 2.4 million yuan (HK$2.7 million) in bribes.

Zhang Lijun, who served as deputy minister for environmental protection from 2008 to 2013, was handed his jail term at a public sentencing by the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court on Wednesday, according to the court’s official microblog.

He also received a fine of 500,000 yuan.

China accuses former deputy environment minister Zhang Lijun of taking US$361,500 in bribes

The court said Zhang had provided help to grant approval for products and projects, plus aided people in securing jobs in exchange for bribes during his time at the ministry between 1998 to 2013.

He was given a lighter sentence because he had confessed his crimes and handed over all his ill-gotten gains, the court said.

The Communist Party’s anti-graft agency started an investigation into Zhang’s affairs in July last year.

He was the first senior official working in environmental protection to be caught under a huge government anticorruption campaign.

President Xi Jinping has launched a war on deep-seated graft since assuming office almost four years ago, waging a campaign that has brought down over 100 senior officials.

They include the former security tsar ZhouYongkang who was jailed for life last year for graft, abuse of power and leaking state secrets.

The environment ministry was strongly criticised by the party’s anticorruption watchdog last year over its conduct of environmental impact assessments.

Crackdown on corruption at Chinese environmental risk assessment agencies

Inspectors found some government officials had profited by running risk-assessment agencies or their relatives had intervened to influence the outcome of reviews.

Zhang, 64, worked in the field of environmental protection for more than two decades, starting as the local chief of Jilin’s provincial environmental protection bureau in 1989.

After serving as editor-in-chief of the newspaper China Environment News for about five years, Zhang led several of the environmental protection ministry’s powerful departments, including planning and finance, plus pollution prevention and control before retiring in 2013.