Former top Chinese economic planner given life in prison in bribery case

BEIJING, China – A former deputy head of the agency that steers China’s state-dominated economy was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for taking bribes, adding to a growing toll of prominent figures ensnared in an anti-corruption crackdown.

Liu Tienan was accused of receiving 36 million yuan ($5.9 million) in bribes from companies including petrochemical and auto manufacturers from 2002 to 2012. Other details were not announced but Liu’s post as deputy chairman of the Cabinet’s National Development and Reform Commission gave him access to valuable information and influence over policy.

Liu received a life sentence despite a recommendation for leniency by prosecutors on the grounds that he confessed at his trial in September. It was announced on the website of the court in the northern city of Langfang and by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Chinese President Xi Jinping launched a campaign in 2012 to purge the Communist Party of corruption and other wrongdoing that threaten to undermine public acceptance of one-party rule.

On Saturday, the party announced Zhou Yongkang, a retired member of its Standing Committee, China’s ruling inner circle, had been expelled from the party and arrested on an array of charges including taking bribes and leaking state secrets.

Also Wednesday, a business manager in the southern province of Guangdong received a suspended death sentence for his role in a scheme to steal assets from state companies that were undergoing restructuring, the ruling party newspaper People’s Daily said on its website. It said the case involved 340 million yuan ($55.7 million).

Suspended death sentences usually are converted to long prison terms if the convict is deemed to have reformed.

Liu’s case was unusual because allegations were first levelled against him by a journalist, Luo Changping, then the deputy editor-in-chief of the business magazine Caijing magazine, on his microblog in December 2012.

Liu also was director of the National Energy Administration, which initially dismissed Luo’s allegations as “pure slander.”

Liu is one of a series of officials in energy and economic agencies who are under investigation on suspicion of corruption.

The deputy director of the energy administration, Wei Pengyuan, also has been detained on corruption charges. A prosecutor announced in October that investigators found 200 million yuan ($33 million) in cash at Wei’s home.

According to the prosecutor, 11 commission employees are under investigation on suspicion of corruption and six may each have received tens of millions of yuan (millions of dollars) in bribes.