March 17, 2015 / 2:28 AM / 3 years ago

Disgraced former top Chinese military officer dies before trial

BEIJING (Reuters) - One of the most senior Chinese military officers to be accused of corruption has died of cancer, the state news agency Xinhua said on Monday, sparing the government what could have been an embarrassing trial.

Then member of Central Military Commission Xu Caihou attends a meeting in Changchun, Jilin province July 14, 2004. REUTERS/Stringer

Xu Caihou retired as vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission in 2013 and from the ruling Communist Party’s decision-making Politburo in 2012.

In a brief statement, Xinhua said that Xu had died in hospital on Sunday of multiple organ failure bought on by bladder cancer.

His illness had been reported by the government.

Though he had died, his “illegal gains” would be dealt with in accordance with the law, Xinhua added, without providing details. The Defense Ministry carried the same report on its website.

It was not immediately possible to reach family for comment.

The official PLA Daily, in a commentary on its microblog, said Xu ended his “pathetic and shameful life” on a sickbed under supervision.

“Corruption in the military is the most dangerous kind, for if the military tolerates corruption it tolerates defeat in battle,” it said.

The Defense Ministry said everything had been done to save Xu’s life after his illness was detected on Feb. 4, 2013, and once he had been put under investigation, he was kept in hospital.

“After Xu Caihou’s illness worsened, experts were organized in a timely manner to carry out treatment, to give a full medical guarantee,” it said in a statement late on Monday.

President Xi Jinping heads the Central Military Commission, which controls the 2.3 million-strong armed forces, and has made weeding out corruption a top goal.

The government said in October Xu had confessed to taking “massive” bribes in exchange for help in promotions.

Xu had been under investigation since last March, media said.

His death means the Communist Party will not have to risk any embarrassment that could have come from a trial and the details of graft it might have revealed, though the trial likely would have been held behind closed doors.

Authorities are also investigating a second former top military officer on suspicion of corruption, two independent sources told Reuters recently.

Guo Boxiong, 72, was another vice chairman of the Central Military Commission until he stepped down in 2012. The government has not confirmed the investigation.

China intensified a crackdown on corruption in the military in the 1990s, banning it from business. But the military has been involved in commerce in recent years due to a lack of checks and balances, analysts say.

Editing by Jeremy Laurence, Robert Birsel

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