China court to issue Bo Xilai verdict on Sept 22

The corruption verdict against fallen Chinese politician Bo Xilai will be issued Sunday, the court that tried him said, potentially drawing to a close the Communist party's worst scandal in years.

Bo, 64, was once tipped for membership of China's most powerful political body and his downfall exposed the ruling party to allegations of graft at a senior level.

The scandal added to divisions ahead of a once-in-a-decade leadership transition which saw Xi Jinping installed as party chief in November.

Now the court is almost certain to find Bo guilty and hand him a lengthy prison sentence, with the verdict decided as a result of extended backroom political bargaining, analysts say.

"The Jinan Intermediate People's Court will openly announce its verdict on the Bo Xilai bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power case on September 22, 2013 at 10 am," the court said on a verified account on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Before his ouster last year, Bo was the top official in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing and one of China's most prominent politicians.

But he fell from grace after his police chief fled to a US consulate. His wife was later convicted of the murder of a British businessman.

In an extraordinary trial last month, Bo vehemently denied the charges against him while the prosecution accused him of corruptly obtaining 26.8 million yuan ($4.4 million) and covering up the killing committed by his wife.

Revelations of private jet flights, luxury villas and gifts of rare animal meats held Chinese Internet users spellbound during the five-day trial, with the court's weibo account gaining more than half a million followers.

Bo's defiance over the course of the hearings astonished a public unfamiliar with the open airing of top-level intrigue and was in stark contrast to previous Chinese political trials, in which most defendants have humbly confessed their crimes in opaque court proceedings.

He dismissed testimony by his wife Gu Kailai as "insane", launched a scathing attack on his former police chief Wang Lijun as "full of lies and fraud", and compared another prosecution witness to a "mad dog".

At the close of the trial prosecutors said Bo's crimes of bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power were "extremely serious" and there were no mitigating factors.

Though a guilty verdict is almost certain, his punishment remains in question. The charges against him mean he could be handed a death sentence, but several analysts said they expect him to receive a prison term of around 20 years.

Bo could yet appeal, but the verdict will be seen by party authorities as a chance to draw a line under the scandal.

"As far as the party leaders are concerned, this is the end of the matter," Zhang Ming, a political analyst at Beijing's Renmin University told AFP.

David Zweig, a professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said the verdict was "about trying to get things done, and move things along".

"The question really is how long they put him away for, and I think the assumption is that they're going to throw the book at him, and give him a long time," he added.

The son of one of China's most famous revolutionary leaders, Bo's populist policies in Chongqing won him supporters across China and he is still thought to have high-level allies within the ruling party.

But his brash approach also alienated other top party leaders, who saw his open ambition as harking back to a bygone era of strongman rule.

The verdict comes as the party attempts to show it is cracking down on corruption and government waste.

Prior to his ouster, Bo was one of 25 members of the party's Politburo, China's second-highest body. The last former Politburo member to be tried for corruption, Chen Liangyu, received an 18-year prison term in 2008.

In the past, senior Chinese politicians given prison terms have been reportedly been released on medical parole before completing their full sentences.