Ex-China Political Star Jailed for Life Over $27 Million Bribery

(Bloomberg) -- A one-time contender for China’s presidency, Sun Zhengcai, was sentenced to life in prison for accepting over 170 million yuan ($27 million) in bribes.

Authorities intend to confiscate Sun’s personal property and retrieve his “illegal gains and relevant yields,” the official Xinhua News Agency said on Tuesday, citing a verdict from Tianjin No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court. The ruling makes Sun the fourth former member of the Communist Party’s Politburo jailed for life under President Xi Jinping.

Prosecutions of such senior-ranking officials are usually carefully choreographed affairs, and state television showed footage of Sun confessing during a one-day trial last month. “This is the outcome of my own deeds and I deserve all of this. I sincerely confess my illegal actions with regret and will obey the court’s decision,” he told the court at the time.

Sun, 54, was until last year the Politburo’s youngest member and the only sitting member of the 25-seat body prosecuted during Xi’s five-year campaign against corruption. His dramatic arrest in July last year rattled the ruling party just three months before a twice-a-decade leadership reshuffle in which Xi broke with his predecessor and promoted no potential successors. Lawmakers later repealed presidential term limits, potentially allowing Xi to keep power indefinitely.

The case mirrors the downfall of another former Chongqing chief, Bo Xilai, whose arrest jolted the previous party shuffle in 2012. Bo, who was touted at the time as a potential future leader, is now serving a life sentence in prison for graft and abuse of power.

It has not been possible to reach Sun for comment, and it is unclear whether he has a lawyer.

During the period cited in his indictment, Sun also served as agriculture minister and held positions in Jilin province and the capital Beijing. His posts in Chongqing and on the Politburo were subsequently filled by former Guizhou party chief Chen Miner, another rising star and a close ally of Xi’s.

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