August 10, 2015 / 10:35 AM / in 2 years

Former senior China military official sentenced to death for corruption with reprieve

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese military court sentenced former senior officer Gu Junshan to death with a two-year reprieve for corruption, the Defense Ministry said on Monday, the latest official to fall in President Xi Jinping's crackdown on graft in the armed forces.

Xi has made weeding out corruption in the military a top goal, with serving and retired officers warning that graft is so pervasive it could undermine China's ability to wage war.

A former lieutenant general who had been deputy director of the military's powerful logistics department, Gu was sentenced for crimes including bribery, abuse of power and misuse of public funds, the ministry said in a statement on its website. The reprieve usually means the death sentence is commuted to life imprisonment after two years' good behavior.

Gu was charged in 2014 on suspicion of selling hundreds of military positions.

"The military court determined the amount of bribes Gu Junshan accepted was huge, the harmful consequences especially grave, the amount of misappropriated public funds immense, and the details of his abuse of power especially serious," an unnamed military court official said in a separate statement.

The case was heard behind closed doors to safeguard "military secrets", the official said.

Gu's case was linked to that of Xu Caihou, a former vice chairman of the elite Central Military Commission who the government said had confessed to taking "massive" bribes in exchange for help in promotions. Xu died in March.

"This serious trial was a contest determining whether justice or evil will triumph," a commentary on the ministry's website said.

"For leading cadres at all levels, this is a profound warning to remember that the 'perks' given to you today are just the 'bomb' that will destroy you tomorrow."

The anti-graft drive in the military, part of a broader campaign against corruption, comes as Xi steps up efforts to modernize forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, though China has not fought a war in decades.

China intensified its crackdown on corruption in the military in the late 1990s, banning the People's Liberation Army from engaging in business. But the military has been involved in commercial dealings in recent years due to a lack of checks and balances, military analysts have said.

The crackdown has felled several senior military officers, including Guo Boxiong, also once a vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Reporting by Michael Martina and Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Nick Macfie

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