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Former Communist Party boss of Yunnan province to spend life behind bars

A former Communist Party boss of Yunnan province has been given a suspended death sentence for corruption, the harshest penalty imposed on a senior official arrested since President Xi Jinping launched his anti-graft drive in late 2012.

Bai Enpei, 70, was ordered to serve the term for taking massive bribes and having assets he could not account for.

Bai, a deputy head of the national legislature’s environmental protection panel at the time of his arrest, is also the first senior official jailed for life without the chance of parole or a cut in his sentence since the criminal code was amended in August last year.

The amendment bars anybody sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for taking “extremely huge amounts of bribes and causing huge losses” from parole or a reduced sentence.

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Meanwhile, Zhou Benshun, former party boss of Hebei province, has been officially charged with abusing his power and taking bribes. Zhou was a one-time top aide to disgraced security chief Zhou Yongkang, who was jailed for life in June for graft.

Zhou Benshun will be tried in the Xiamen People’s Intermediate Court in Fujian.

Yang Dongliang, the former national work safety chief who was taken away when he was investigating the Tianjin blasts in August last year, was also officially charged with taking bribes and embezzlement. He will be tried in the Beijing Second Intermediate People’s Court.

Bai was taken away in August 2014 and stood trial in June in the Anyang Intermediate People’s Court. The court ruled that Bai deserved the death penalty because he committed “an extremely serious crime by taking an extremely huge amount of bribes that led to extremely serious losses to the state and the people”.

He received a lighter sentence because he confessed to bribes that the prosecutors were not aware of and because the illicit assets were recovered in full, the court ruled.

Bai would remain behind bars for life without parole if his sentence was commuted to life in prison after two years, the court added.

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Bai was convicted of abusing his power as party secretary of Qinghai from 1999 to 2001, party secretary of Yunnan until 2011 and later as a senior official with the environmental protection committee of the National People’s Congress, the top legislature.

He offered favours to property developers and businesspeople and took bribes, amassing 247 million yuan (HK$287 million) in assets that he could not account for.

The sums involved in Bai’s case far exceeded that of any other disgraced senior mainland official – including 1.9 times the amount of bribes in Zhou Yongkang’s case – since the Xi’s anti-corruption campaign was launched in 2012.

There were few details of Bai’s crimes, but earlier mainland media reports linked Bai to Liu Han, the Sichuan mining tycoon who was sentenced to death in May for operating a mafia-style gang.