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Death sentence over bribery

THE former chairman of Sinopec, Asia's largest oil refiner, was yesterday sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve by a Beijing court over corruption charges involving 195.73 million yuan (US$28.65 million).

The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court ruled that Chen Tonghai accepted bribes during his time at the company in various senior roles from 1999 to 2007.

Chen has 10 days to lodge an appeal if he does not agree with the court's decision.

The court said it was lenient despite the huge amount of money Chen took because he had a "good attitude" in confessing his crimes.

He also returned all the illicit money and identified other corrupt officials, Xinhua news agency said.

The court ordered that all his property be confiscated and his political rights be deprived for life.

Sinopec, also known as the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, is one of China's two major oil and gas producers. Chen served as Sinopec chairman from 2006-2007.

In June 22, 2007, Sinopec announced that Chen had resigned as a director and chairman of the board "for personal reasons." It was revealed later that Chen was detained for corruption in October that year.

"Chen has taken a huge amount in bribes and abused his power to gain inappropriate benefits for his mistress," CCTV said when he was detained. "He led a lavish and immoral life, and his behavior is a severe breach of Party discipline."

His mistress, Li Wei, was the owner of a real estate firm in Qingdao City who bought land linked to a huge oil refinery project in the eastern Chinese city in Shandong Province at prices lower than market value, according to Beijing-based Caijing magazine.

Chen shared Li with Qingdao's former Party Secretary Du Shicheng in a ploy for political alliance and protection, Caijing said.

Chen was born in 1948 in Shanghai to a family of prominent officials.

Chen, the former mayor of Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province, spent 10 years in the Daqing oil field after graduating from Northeast Petroleum University in 1976.

In 1994, he was promoted to be the vice head of the State Planning Committee, then one of China's top planning bodies. He was appointed board director and vice-chairman of Sinopec a year later.

The court said Chen took advantage of his senior roles at the company. In return, he helped others seek illegal gains.

"Chen Tonghai's sentence is a result of people's courts' criminal policies and reflects both severe punishment for corruption and the policy of tempering justice with mercy," it said.

Chen was a state enterprise leader at the highest level and committed serious crimes involving the largest sum in recent years, the court said.

"The handling of Chen's case sounds an alarm for the country's state-run company leaders," the court said.

It said state enterprise reforms should increase supervision and "unearth corruption from the roots."


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