In a high-profile case pointing to ties between local Communist Party officials and organized crime, a Chinese court sentenced more than a dozen key officials in the country's fifth-largest city, official media reported today.
Authorities sentenced Mu Suixin, the former mayor of Shenyang, to death with a two-year reprieve, a sentence that is usually commuted to life in prison. Shenyang's vice mayor, Ma Xiangdong, was sentenced to death in the same case, state-run China Central Television reported.
"Other corruption cases have involved higher officials and bigger sums of money, but this is the biggest case to go public so far involving complicity between organized crime and officialdom," said Hong Daode, a criminal law expert at the China University of Politics and Law.
Previously, the official press had lauded Mu for his economic reforms in Shenyang.
Once the center of China's heavy industry, the northeastern city of nearly 7 million residents is being hit by widespread unemployment as its obsolescent state-run factories go bankrupt.
But, in recent months, Chinese media have churned out lengthy exposes detailing an alliance of political, business and criminal elites that ran Shenyang.
According to state media reports, the kingpin behind the graft was 40-year-old Liu Yong, who was arrested in July last year. Forty-five of his associates, including eight police officers, were apprehended in January.
Liu, a Communist Party member, reportedly used his official connections at first for protection, then later as the building blocks of his business and criminal empires.
His godfather was the city's top prosecutor, and the vice chief of the municipal intermediate court was his mistress.
The vice chief of the labor department, his godmother, helped him secure an official position as delegate to Shenyang's municipal legislature, the Beijing-based Lifeweek magazine reported.
Liu also headed the Jiayang Group, a conglomerate with 26 companies and more than $85 million in assets.
Liu and his henchmen blackmailed and assaulted rivals of his real estate and tobacco businesses, killing one and injuring 16, according to the official New China News Agency. In exchange for illegal tax breaks, Liu reportedly paid bribes to Ma and lent the vice mayor bodyguards on his trips to casinos in the former Portuguese colony of Macao, where Ma is said to have gambled away $4.8 million in public funds.
Official reports have not detailed Liu's connection to Mu, who was convicted of taking bribes of more than $797,000 between 1993 and last year. Also sentenced were 11 other Shenyang officials, including the city's top judge and the heads of the city's state assets, tax and fiscal bureaus.