China finance official executed in bribery case

The former head of a Chinese state-owned asset management company was executed Friday on charges of taking bribes in an unusually severe penalty for a recent corruption case.

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In this image taken from Jan. 5, 2021, video footage run by China’s CCTV via AP Video, Lai Xiaomin, the former head of the state-owned China Huarong Asset Management Co., attends court at the Second Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin in China.

In this image taken from Jan. 5, 2021, video footage run by China’s CCTV via AP Video, Lai Xiaomin, the former head of the state-owned China Huarong Asset Management Co., attends court at the Second Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin in China. Lai was executed Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, on charges of taking bribes in one of the most severe penalties imposed in a recent corruption case.

AP

BEIJING — The former head of a Chinese state-owned asset management company was executed Friday on charges of taking bribes in an unusually severe penalty for a recent corruption case.

Lai Xiaomin of China Huarong Asset Management Co., was among thousands of officials snared in a long-running anti-graft campaign led by President Xi Jinping. Others including China’s former insurance regulator have been sentenced to prison.

Lai, 58, was put to death by a court in Tianjin, east of Beijing, the government announced.

The Second Intermediate People’s Court of Tianjin ruled in January that death was justified because Lai took “especially enormous” bribes to make investments, offer construction contracts, help with promotions and provide other favors.

Lai asked for or collected 1.8 billion yuan ($260 million) over a decade, the court said. It said one bribe exceeded 600 million yuan ($93 million). He was also convicted of embezzling more than 25 million yuan ($4 million) and starting a second family while still married to his first wife.

Lai “endangered national financial security and financial stability,” said a commentary on the state TV website.

The death penalty “was his own responsibility, and he deserved it,” the commentary said.

Most death sentences imposed by Chinese courts are suspended for two years and usually are commuted to life. Death penalties without the chance of a reprieve are rare.

Huarong is one of four entities created in the 1990s to buy nonperforming loans from government-owned banks. They expanded into banking, insurance, real estate finance and other fields.

Lai was placed under investigation by the ruling Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog in 2018 and expelled from the party later the same year.

Lai also was accused of squandering public money, illegally organizing banquets, engaging in sexual dealings with multiple women and taking bribes, the anti-corruption agency said in 2018.

Investigators seized hundreds of millions of yuan (tens of millions of dollars) in cash from Lai’s properties, the Chinese business news magazine Caixin reported in 2018.

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