China jails smuggling kingpin Lai for life

Fri May 18, 2012 2:29am GMT

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese court convicted Lai Changxing, who was deported from Canada, on smuggling and bribery charges and jailed him for life on Friday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The conviction effectively ends the career of a man whose case tainted ruling Chinese Communist Party officials - including Jia Qinglin, who sits on the elite Standing Committee - with rumours of malfeasance, collusion and dereliction of duty.

Lai was jailed by a court in Xiamen, a coastal city in east China where he was accused of running a vast smuggling ring in the 1990s protected by senior officials who were paid off.

"The crimes involve massive sums and particularly serious circumstances," the court said, according to the Xinhua report, which cast the conviction as showing the ruling Communist Party's determination to fight corruption.

"The Chinese government's determination to attack crime and root out corruption is unwavering, the report said.

Lai can still appeal against the conviction and sentence.

The court concluded that, from 1991, Lai "established companies, strongholds and networks in Hong Kong and Xiamen to form a smuggling clique" that cheated customs inspectors to import cigarettes, cars, oil products, industrial materials and textiles worth a total of some 27.4 billion yuan (2.7 billion pounds).

Lai bribed 64 officials through gifts of cash, real estate and vehicles worth some 39.1 million yuan, and he evaded taxes totalling 14.0 billion yuan.

Lai's crimes occurred in the special economic zone of Xiamen in Fujian province in the mid-1990s when Jia, now the Communist Party's fourth most senior leader, was the province's party boss.   Continued...

Chinese fugitive Lai Changxing listens to questions from reporters during a news conference in Vancouver, British Columbia in this April 5, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Lyle Stafford
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