Former railways minister charged with bribery
Former railways minister Liu Zhijun was charged with bribery and abuse of power on Wednesday, authorities said, two years after stepping down from his post to be investigated for serious disciplinary violations.
According to an indictment issued by Beijing No 2 People's Procuratorate, Liu sought benefits for others by using his position and accepted huge financial incentives from others.
|Liu Zhijun, ex-railways minister|
Prosecutors did not disclose the amount they say Liu took as bribes.
The indictment also said, that as a staff member of a State organ, Liu engaged in malpractice for personal gains and abuse of power, causing great public property losses.
In view of the "especially serious circumstances", Liu should be subject to criminal liability for bribery and abuse of power under Chinese Criminal Law, the indictment said.
Beijing No 2 Intermediate People's Court has accepted the case, but it is not known when Liu will face trial.
The prosecution comes two years after Liu's fall from grace in February 2011, when he was dismissed for serious disciplinary violations. He was expelled from the Communist Party of China in May 2012.
Liu is the highest-ranking official to be prosecuted since the 18th Party Congress in November when the central government showed strong determination to crack down on corruption nationwide.
"It has been a long time since the authorities have prosecuted an official at minister level," said Yi Shenghua, a Beijing-based criminal lawyer specializing in corruption cases.
Under Chinese Criminal Law, if the amount of bribes is exceptionally large and the circumstances of a crime serious, offenders face the death penalty.
"We cannot deny that Liu made contributions to China's railway development, but we should also observe that he brought losses for the industry," Yi said.
During Liu's tenure - he was in charge of the ministry between 2003 and 2011 - China saw rapid development of its high-speed rail network, which reached 9,356 km by the end of last year, according to official statistics.
But as the economy and travelers benefited from this, the large-scale construction generated debts that reached 2.66 trillion yuan ($429 billion) by the end of September, according to data released by the former ministry of railways.
Public trust in the railway system has also be eroded by a series of corruption and safety scandals in recent years.
On July 23, 2011, a bullet train crashed into a stalled train near Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, leaving 40 people dead and 172 injured.
The accident was caused by a series of flaws in the train operation control system and by an inadequate emergency response by railway authorities, according to the final report released in December 2011.
Fifty-four people, including Liu and Zhang Shuguang, the then-deputy chief engineer of the former rail ministry, were blamed for the crash.
The disciplinary watchdogs' investigation also found that Liu had taken advantage of his position to help Ding Yuxin, chairwoman of Beijing Boyou Investment Management Corp, make huge illicit gains.