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Former Sinopec chief sentenced to death

THE former chairman of Sinopec, Asia's largest oil refiner, was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in Beijing today over corruption charges involving 200 million yuan (US$29.2 million).

The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court today handed Chen Tonghai the death penalty with a two-year reprieve for accepting bribes during his tenure from 1999 to 2007.

According to China's criminal law, the death penalty with a two-year reprieve means Chen's punishment will be commuted to life imprisonment if he behaves during the probationary period.

The 61-year old top echelon state-owned enterprise leader was given a lenient sentence despite the huge amount of money he took because he had a "good attitude" in confessing his crimes. He also returned all the illicit money and identified other corrupt officials, said the Xinhua news agency.

The court also ordered that all his property be confiscated.

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

In June 22, 2007, Sinopec announced that Chen had resigned his post 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. He led a lavish and immoral life, and his behavior is a severe breach of Party discipline," CCTV said in 2007 when he was detained.

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

Chen shared his mistress with Qingdao's former Party Secretary, Du Shicheng, to liaise with the former local top leader for political alliance and protection, Caijing said.

Chen was born in 1948 in Shanghai to a family of prominent officials. Chen's father, Chen Weida, was Party secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Party Committee in 1977 and later the first Party Chief of Tianjin Municipality. Chen Weida died in 1990.

Chen Tonghai, the former mayor of Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province, used the country's petrol industry to establish his political career.

The oil extraction engineering major 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.


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