BEIJING (AP) — A former deputy police minister who was accused of leading a crime gang of government officials was given a death sentence with a two-year reprieve Friday on charges of manipulating the stock market, taking bribes and other offenses, in a case that involved at least two former Cabinet officials, Chinese state TV reported.
Sun Lijun’s conviction adds to a string of senior officials who have been punished in an anti-graft campaign launched after President Xi Jinping took power in late 2012 that some see as politically motivated.
The latest penalty comes ahead of a meeting of the ruling Communist Party next month at which Xi is expected to try to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as leader.
A former justice minister and a former ruling party official who were accused of colluding with Sun received similar penalties Thursday.
Sun was convicted by the court in the northeastern city of Changchun of collecting 646 million yuan ($91 million) in bribes, China Central TV reported on its website.
Sun was charged with using his official position in 2018 to manipulate stock trading to help a trader avoid losses. He also was accused of selling official jobs and abandoning his post during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Sun was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve. Such penalties can be commuted to a prison term if the convict is deemed to have reformed. CCTV said if Sun’s death sentence is commuted, he would be sentenced to life without parole.
The former justice minister, Fu Zhenghua, pleaded guilty to taking bribes to help hide criminal activity. Earlier news reports accused him of joining “Sun Lijun's political gang.”
The party official, Wang Like, was charged with taking 440 million yuan ($62 million) in bribes to help with business deals or in securing loans and jobs. He was accused of offering 97 million yuan ($14 million) in bribes to Sun and other officials.
The ruling party’s anti-corruption agency accused Sun last year of having “extremely inflated political ambition.” It said he engaged in unspecified “superstitious activities.”
Earlier, Sun was named in a lawsuit by the U.S. Justice Department against Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn to compel Wynn to register as a foreign agent because of lobbying work it says he performed for the Chinese government.
The lawsuit says senior officials including Sun wanted Wynn’s help in trying to have a Chinese citizen’s visa application denied, according to the complaint. Beijing wanted the man, who was charged with corruption and asked for political asylum, returned to China.