Olympic official gets suspended death sentence

THE Chinese bureaucrat who oversaw construction projects for this year’s Beijing Olympics has received a suspended death sentence for corruption in a case that involved bribery and lavish living.

The Chinese state news agency has reported that the sentence, suspended for two years, meant that if the defendant “shows good behaviour, his sentence will be commuted to life imprisonment.”

Official Liu Zhihua, 59, once exercised immense power as Beijing’s vice-mayor and chief director of the agency supervising construction projects, including the citywide makeover to prepare for the Games.

But in June 2006 Liu was stripped of his post after being linked to a bribery scandal. He was expelled from the governing Communist Party six months later.

Liu’s case was a major embarrassment to the party. Corruption is endemic, but party leaders had pledged that the US$43 billion preparations for the Games would be the “cleanest in history.”

Liu’s case was doubly upsetting because of revelations of his opulent lifestyle, including expensive villas and mistresses provided by developers.

On Sunday, reports stated that Liu had taken roughly US$1 million in bribes during his tenure as vice mayor and as overseer of construction for a scientific research park in the city’s university district from 1999 to 2006.

The court found that Liu and a mistress had kept the money; the state news agency added: “Liu abused his power to get contract projects, loans and offer promotions for others in exchange for profits.”

Hong Kong’s news media portrayed Mr Liu as having spent many weekends at luxurious villas in the mountains north of Beijing.

The South China Morning Post reported that Mr Liu had used a suburban compound called Xanadu that was “full of luxury villas belonging to senior Communist Party officials and rich business figures.”

His defence lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said Mr Liu had not decided whether to appeal his conviction.


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