Published September 22, 2013
Fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai was sentenced to life in prison Sunday after a court convicted him of charges of corruption, accepting bribes, and abuse of power.
The Jinan Intermediate People's Court court sentenced Bo to life in prison on the bribery charges, 15 years for embezzlement and seven years for abuse of power, rejecting Bo's defense that he did not know about the $3.5 million in bribes from two business associates in the form of extensive valuable gifts to his family -- including a French villa, expenses-paid trips, an electric scooter and fancy delicacies such as abalone. However, the court said a small portion of the bribes alleged by prosecutors, of about $160,000 were not proven in court.
The verdict and sentence brought a close to one of the most lurid political scandals in the history of Communist China and concluded Bo's downfall, which was set in motion by his wife's murder of a British businessman, followed by a defection of his top aide to a U.S. consulate with information about the murder case just ahead of a leadership transition.
The court also ordered that Bo's assets be seized, according to a transcript of proceedings on the court's microblog. The former Politburo member and party chief of the megacity Chongqing had vigorously denied any criminal wrongdoing during the trial. Bo had blamed the corruption on others in his inner circle, thus forgoing the opportunity to earn leniency as is customarily given in Chinese courts when a defendant expresses contrition.
Bo also became the highest-level politician convicted for corruption under China's leader Xi Jinping, who has staked his reputation on combatting graft within the Communist Party.
"I think the point is that Xi wanted to punish Bo Xilai for daring to go against the party's arrangements," said Willy Lam, an expert on party politics at Chinese University in Hong Kong. "He was punished for his disobedience and defiance."
Bo was escorted into the court by marshals Sunday morning and stood to listen as the judge began reading the lengthy verdict, which reviewed the facts established in the trial.
delicacies such as abalone. However, the court said a small portion of the bribes alleged by prosecutors, of about $160,000 were not proven in court.
The trial proceedings had been publicized through partial transcripts that gave a measure of legitimacy to a trial seen by many observers to have a foregone conclusion of guilt and predetermined sentence because of the Communist Party leadership's control over the court system.
"This is a big victory for Xi Jinping's leadership, because you cannot say this is a secretive trial. It is at least a semi-open trial," said Li Cheng, an expert of elite politics at Brookings Institute. "Bo's political career is zero, and the trial really transformed Bo from a charismatic leader to a self-indulging person."
Bo, once a rising political star, was removed from office in March and expelled from the party in September.
Bo's career started to unravel in February 2012 when his top aide, police chief Wang Linjun -- after having a fallout with Bo -- fled to a U.S. consulate with information about the murder case and unsuccessfully sought political refuge in a severe breach of Communist Party rules.
Bo was removed from office and placed under investigation, which revealed other offenses such as corruption. Expelled from the Communist Party in September, Bo is the highest-ranking Chinese official to stand trial since former Shanghai party chief Chen Liangyu in 2008.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.