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February 3, 2010

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Top cop on trial in mafia sweep

CHONGQING'S former police chief and top judicial official went on trial yesterday on charges of taking millions in bribes to protect mafia-like gangs in the city in southwest China.

Prosecutors said 55-year-old Wen Qiang should be held ultimately responsible for rampant gang crimes in the city.

Prosecutors said Wen took bribes totaling more than 16 million yuan (US$2.4 million), personally or through his wife Zhou Xiaoya, from ringleaders, government officials, companies and businessmen since 1996.

In return, Wen, a senior police officer in Chongqing for 16 years, gave protection to gangs, offered posts for officials, and helped companies and businessmen evade police investigations, prosecutors said.

He also could not account for the source of more than 10 million yuan in his personal assets, prosecutors added.

The former police chief was also charged with raping a university student on several occasions in 2007 and 2008.

Other defendants brought to the court together with Wen yesterday included his wife Zhou Xiaoya and three former senior Chongqing policemen, Huang Daiqiang, Zhao Liming and Chen Tao.

Zhou was accused of seeking gain for others and illegally taking 8.16 million yuan from them by exploiting the advantage of being the spouse of a government official.

The three former police officers face a series of charges including bribery and protecting gangs.

Wen's rape case will not be tried in public. The whole trial is expected to last five days.

Law experts said Wen could face the death penalty if the charges stand, according to Wuhan Evening News.

Wen is one of the highest-ranking "protective umbrellas" to be toppled in the city's sweeping crackdown on gang crimes.

The China News Service said Wen created the rules of Chongqing's underworld.

During his tenure as vice public security director from 1992 to 2008, the Chongqing police failed to quell mafia-like gangs in the city. Instead, the police system was corrupted under Wen's leadership.

Gang bosses could give Wen 200,000 yuan to make a murder case go away. They could buy a government post with higher price if they wished to, the China News Service said.

Wen's sister in law, Xie Caiping, was known as the "godmother" in Chongqing's underworld.

In November, Chongqing No.5 Intermediate People's Court sentenced Xie to 18 years in prison for opening casinos and bribery.

Police seized Wen on August 7.

He allegedly confessed during interrogation that he slept with almost every actress who performed in Chongqing, according to former reports.

His former residence in Chongqing has become a tourist attraction known for its luxury decorations.


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