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Former freeway executive gets death penalty
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The former board chairman of a northwest Chinese freeway construction company received a death sentence, with a two-year stay, after being convicted for bribery on Wednesday.

The ruling was handed down by the Intermediate People's Court of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi Province, against Chen Shuangquan, who formerly was chairman of the Shaanxi Freeway Construction Group Company (SFCGC).

The court was told that Chen was appointed as chairman of the board of SFCGC in April 2001. During his tenure, Chen was in charge of construction of three freeways: Yan'an-Huangling, Xi'an-Hanzhong and an airport highway for Xianyang, a city in interior Shaanxi.

The court heard that he took advantage of his post and sought benefits on behalf of a number of construction organizations and individuals in relation to freeway construction and loan guarantees.

He received substantial bribes in return, the court was told. These bribes added up to 14.73 million yuan (US$2.1 million), which were paid in various currencies, including US$930,000 and 10 million Japanese yen.

Chen and his family have returned some of the bribes.

The court said that the scale of the bribery was very serious and Chen deserved the harshest punishment. However, since he had cooperated with investigators, "leniency was shown in meting out the penalty," it said.

Also under the ruling, Chen was stripped of his political rights for life and all his personal assets were confiscated.

On the same day, the court also found Du Xinke, chairman of the board of the Huangling-Yan'an Freeway Company (a wholly-owned subsidiary of SFCGC) and Zhao Feng, chief of the secretariat to the board of SFCGC, guilty of accepting bribes.

An Fuqiang, deputy general manager of the Huangling-Yan'an Freeway Company, was found guilty of facilitating bribery and accepting bribes.

Du received a nine-year jail sentence and confiscation of 200,000 yuan. Zhao got 10 years in jail and confiscation of 30,000 yuan, and An was ordered to serve 11 and a half years in jail, along with confiscation of 60,000 yuan.

It was not immediately known if any of the four would appeal.

In recent years, China has seen an increase in commercial bribery cases, in the fields of construction, land acquisition, ownership transfer of state-owned enterprises, government procurement, purchase and sale of medicine, resources development and bank lending, among others.

In the first seven months of 2007, there were 4,406 cases of commercial bribery, 8.2 percent more than the same period of last year, according to the Supreme People's Court.

Commercial briberies featuring corporate wrong-doings rose 37.3 percent and cases relating to individual employees of companies jumped by 52.1 percent in the first seven months of last year.

A total of 31,119 commercial bribery cases were dealt with in China in the past two years before August 2007, involving 7.079 billion yuan (US$943.8 million), said Li Yufu, deputy director of the leading group on anti-commercial bribery under the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The most notorious "big fish" caught in the anti-commercial bribery fight was Wang Youjie, former deputy director of the Standing Committee of Henan Provincial People's Congress, the local parliament.

He was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve for receiving bribes worth 6.34 million yuan and possessing 8.9 million yuan worth of property he was unable to account for.

Hu Xing, former deputy director of Yunnan Provincial Transport Department, was given life imprisonment for abusing his authority in city construction planning, real estate development and expressway project approval to take more than 40 million yuan in bribes.

(Xinhua News Agency April 18, 2008)

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