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Former corrupt mayor sentenced to death with reprieve

A northern China court sentenced a former city mayor to death with a two-year reprieve for taking bribes worth more than 12.41 million yuan (US$1.82 million) in his six-year tenure.

The Baotou Intermediate People's Court passed the suspended death penalty to Xu Guoyuan, former mayor and vice Party chief of Chifeng City in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region today.

Xu' wife, Li Minjie, was sentenced to three years in prison with a five-year reprieve for accepting more than 1.7 million yuan and helping her husband launder the bribe money, according to China' Supreme People's Court's Website.

The couple was reportedly so accustomed to corruption that Xu even retaliated against people who would not pay up. Li took bribes from strangers she could only identified in her confession as "the squat and fat one" and "the thin and tall one."

The court also ordered Li to pay 100,000 yuan as a fine and was confiscated 100,000 yuan.

The court said the sentence against Xu was light because of the good attitude he showed in the trial.

Under Chinese law, their punishment could be commuted if they behave well during their reprieve time.

Xu and Li told prosecutors about all their illegal properties during the investigation and managed to pay back the illegal income, a sign, the court said, of their regret of the crimes.

The couple used to seek protection from Buddha when they were breaking all Buddhist commandments seeking bribes by offering to illegally fast-track project approvals.

Investigators said the couple chanted Buddhist prayers while they were in custody.

The 53-year-old former mayor hid cash in his Buddha statues in his home, prosecutors said. He even sent a safe full of cash and precious jewelry to a Buddhist temple in southwest China's Yunnan Province and hid the key of the safe in an ear of a Buddha statue in the temple, prosecutors said.

Xu did not stop taking bribe during his tenure from 2002 to 2007 even after they were investigated by authorities over how they managed to acquire a 3.8 million yuan villa.


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