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China executes ex-banker in bribes, corruption case

BEIJING: China has executed a former top banker accused of taking $260 million worth of bribes and other forms of corruption.

Lai Xiaomin, the former chairman of Huarong – one of China’s largest state-controlled asset management firms – was put to death by a court in the northern city of Tianjin, state broadcaster said without specifying how Lai was executed but said he was allowed to meet close relatives before his death.

“The amount of bribes received by Lai Xiaomin was extremely large, the crime’s circumstances were particularly serious and the social impact was particularly severe,” quoting the Chinese Supreme People’s Court as saying, which reviewed and approved the execution order.  

Chinese courts have a conviction rate of over 99 percent and it is extremely rare for a death sentence to be overturned. The number of executions carried out annually is considered a state secret. Amnesty International estimates the country is the top executioner globally, with thousands executed and sentenced to death each year.

Lai was convicted and sentenced earlier this month. The Tianjin court ruled that he had shown “extreme malicious intent” and abused his position to obtain the vast sum. He was also found guilty of bigamy after living with a woman “as man and wife for long periods” outside of his marriage and fathering illegitimate children.

Lai was alleged to have used his position to embezzle more than 25 million yuan ($3.8 million) in public funds between 2009 and 2018. His downfall began in April 2018 as investigators removed him from his job and stripped him of his Communist Party position.

Several high-profile party officials and entrepreneurs have spectacularly fallen from grace in recent years as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption purge.