BEIJING (Reuters) - A Beijing court on Wednesday sentenced a former railway official to death for corruption, but promised a reprieve after two years of good behavior, state media reported, in the latest graft case to hit China’s sprawling rail network.
Wen Qingliang was sacked as head of the rail bureau in the southwestern city of Kunming in 2011 for “discipline” problems, the usual euphemism for corruption in China.
The Beijing court found that Wen took more than 20 million yuan ($3.3 million) in bribes between 2005 and 2011 while working in the northern province of Shanxi “to provide favors to companies bidding on railway projects”, the official Xinhua news agency said.
His death sentence will be commuted after two years, Xinhua added, which generally means that after two years of good behavior he will end up with a life sentence.
The reprieve was granted because authorities recovered most of his ill-gotten gains, the report said.
Wen’s mistress, Zhong Hua, who is accused of colluding with him, will be given a separate trial, it added.
China’s railways have faced increased scrutiny from anti-corruption officials and the public after a scandal in which former railways minister Liu Zhijun was prosecuted for corruption and abuse of power.
One of several officials implicated in the scandal, Liu received a suspended death sentence last summer. In China, that usually implies life in prison.
The country’s railways have confronted numerous problems in the past few years, including heavy debts from funding new high-speed lines, waste and fraud. The government has pledged to open the rail industry to private investment in a big way.
The sector suffered a major blow to its image when 40 people were killed in a crash between two high-speed trains in 2011.
($1=6.1459 Chinese yuan)
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez