04/11/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Chen Liangyu, former leader of Shanghai, sentenced to 18 years

He has been found guilty of corruption, amounting to 2.39 million yuan. But it is held to have been a "political" trial to affirm the leadership of president Hu Jintao against the "Shanghai clique" of former president Jiang Zemin.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The former head of the communist party of Shanghai, Chen Liangyu, was sentenced today to 18 years in prison, for corruption.  His downfall is considered a sign of the victory of the new leadership of president Hu Jintao over supporters of his predecessor Jiang Zemin.

Chen, a former mayor of Shanghai and former member of the Politburo (the true organ of command in the country) was tried in Tianjin in a single day, at the end of March, over the scandal of Shanghai's pension funds.  Official sources say that 33.9 billion yuan (about 3.4 billion euro) were taken and shared among dozens of communist officials and company directors, used for financing, real estate investments, and stock purchases. But Chen was tried over "only" 2.39 million yuan.  The scandal exploded in September of 2006.  More than 20 officials have already been sentenced, including one death sentence (suspended) and various prison sentences.

During the trial, Chen "admitted in part" to embezzlement, but without acknowledging guilt of corruption.

The Shanghai case is the most significant corruption scandal since the 1995 trial against Beijing mayor Chen Xitong, who was condemned to 16 years in prison.  It is held to be a fundamental step in the struggle for power between the Hu leadership and the "Shanghai clique", which has always been faithful to former president Jiang Zemin.  A few days ago, businessman Zhang Rongkun was condemned to 19 years in prison.  Through his connections and to corruption, in 2005 he became the 16th richest man in China.  He was also connected to the scandal over the pension funds.

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