Chinese province says former leader's graft case involves huge sums

FILE PHOTO: Chongqing Municipality Communist Party Secretary Sun Zhengcai attends the opening session of China's National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, March 5, 2017. Picture taken on March 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

US-CHINA-CORRUPTION:Chinese province says former leader's graft case involves huge sums

BEIJING (Reuters) - The corruption case against former senior Chinese official Sun Zhengcai involves massive sums rarely seen in the country's modern history, the government of one of the provinces he used to run said in comments published on Wednesday.

Chinese prosecutors this week charged Sun with bribery during various posts going back 15 years in Chongqing, Beijing, Jilin province, and as Minister of Agriculture, the latest development in a corruption probe into a man once considered a contender for top leadership.

Sun was abruptly removed from his post as the ruling Communist Party's chief of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing - one of China's most important cities - in July, and replaced by Chen Miner, who is close to President Xi Jinping.

The government has not given exact details the crimes Sun is suspected of, but senior officials have been giving closed-doors briefings about his case, including in the northeastern province of Jilin, where Sun was party chief from 2009 until late 2012.

In a meeting overseen by Jilin's current party boss, Bayin Chaolu, officials were told they had to learn the lessons from and deeply reflect on Sun's crimes, the official Jilin Daily reported.

"The enormity of the sums involved in Sun Zhengcai's case and the seriousness of the crimes have rarely been seen since the founding of new China," the paper said, referring to the 1949 revolution which brought the Communist Party to power.

It provided no details.

Government officials in Jilin must continue to "fully and thoroughly purge the pernicious influence" of Sun Zhengcai, the newspaper added.

It has not been possible to reach Sun or a representative for comment since he was put under investigation last year.

The next likely step against Sun will be to put him on trial, where he is certain to be found guilty as the courts are controlled by the party and will not challenge the accusations against him.

Xi has presided over a sweeping corruption crackdown since coming to power in 2012 and has vowed to target both "tigers" and "flies", a reference to elite officials and ordinary bureaucrats.

Thousands of officials have been jailed and punished in a campaign that has also brought down dozens of senior party and military officials.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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